In most of the stories about this election, Tom Butt, FAIA has been identified as many things, but seldom as an architect. “I’ve been a part-time politician for less than 20 years, but I’ve been a full-time architect for more than 40 years. Some people think architects make good legislators.”
He was initially inspired to run for office by Harvey Gantt, former mayor of Charlotte, NC, who was the keynote speaker at an American Institute of Architects convention in the early 1990’s. Gantt was a pioneer in many respects. The first African American student to be admitted to Clemson University, he graduated with honors in architecture and earned a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning at MIT. He established his successful architecture practice in Charlotte and was elected to the City Council, serving from 1974 to 1983. He was elected to two terms as the first black Mayor of Charlotte from 1983 to 1987. In the 1990s, he ran twice for the United States Senate against Jesse Helms, losing each time. Gantt often compared architecture and politics. “To succeed in either architecture or in politics,” he said, “one must understand problems at the community level, listen closely, and orchestrate sometimes disparate wills.”
His firm, Interactive Resources, may be the only architectural firm that includes two mayors on its staff of architects. Architect Tim Banuelos, who is on the Pinole, CA, City Council, is serving as mayor of Pinole this year and was just reelected, being unopposed for another term. Tim has been a licensed architect for 30 years and served on the Pinole Planning Commission during 2005-2009 and the Design Review Board in 2006.
Earlier this year, Tom was recognized by the California Council, American Institute of Architects with its 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award for “…outstanding contributions to the improvement of the built environment.” The award stated, “Butt has been a Citizen Architect for the last 40 years and an AIA member since 1973. His active involvement in the political and civic arenas is considered admirable and inspirational. One reviewer commented, ‘He reached out to society while simultaneously showing the relevance of the architecture practice.’”