Ian Baltutis ’08: Determined leadership
A successful entrepreneur, the Elon alumnus is applying his “think large, act small” mentality to his mayoral career.
Shakori Fletcher ’16
Ian Baltutis ’08 thinks like an entrepreneur. When, as an Elon student, he co-founded Vibration Solution LLC, which designs and manufactures vibration isolation products for noisy household appliances, he and business partner RJ Yozwiak ’08 created a local business with a global reach that maximizes leanness and efficiency. This “think large, act small” mentality will now surface in Baltutis’ latest day job: Mayor of Burlington, N.C., a position he assumed Dec. 1.
At age 30, he is the youngest mayor in the history of the City of Burlington. But youth doesn’t mean inexperience. “One of the biggest barriers I’ve faced has been age; some people thought, ‘We can’t have a mayor this young,’” he says. ”We all realize opportunities at different stages of our lives. Whether it’s civic engagement, or anything else, we need to make sure folks of all ages have an opportunity.”
One of his first orders of business has been to partner with the Alamance County Libraries to implement the Mayor’s Book Club. The idea is for residents to recommend books for others to read in order to jumpstart in-depth community conversations. The Minnesota native says attending Elon gave him a sense of appreciation for the community he has adopted as his own. “I absolutely loved walking across campus and seeing someone I knew; that sense of community is incredible. When I moved to Burlington, I saw that it’s present there as well,” he says. “I’d love to grow our community but keep that small-town feel. My goal for running was to spark conversations about the community and emphasize that we all have a role in building a better future for Burlington.”
Grassroots campaigns in Burlington’s 2012 election initially sparked Baltutis’ interest in politics. Prior to the mayoral race, he unsuccessfully ran for a state House seat in 2014. He is committed to continuing his grassroots effort throughout his tenure as mayor and is intent on implementing ideas that will further engage Burlington residents. “We want to continue to reach people in every demographic and every neighborhood, to talk with them about their role in Burlington,” he says. “We want to welcome new residents to Burlington and get them engaged in what they’re passionate about—I want to get them connected as soon as possible so we can build the community.”
Baltutis’s innovative spirit and sharp business acumen—he has several Six Sigma Black Belt certifications, a data-driven approach for eliminating deficiencies in any business process—have influenced much of his personal and professional life. From 2007 to 2011, he successfully implemented new manufacturing technologies at Honda Power Equipment Manufacturing in Swepsonville, N.C., which resulted in multimillion-dollar savings for the plant. At Vibration Solution, his leadership has allowed the company to reach and profit from hundreds of niche markets worldwide while creating jobs locally. He has also served on the Board of Advisors for Elon’s Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership since 2012, and says his business experience has taught him the importance of using money effectively and connecting with customers.
But his biggest impact might come through his focus on service. An Eagle Scout, he mentors youth through the local Boy Scout Venture program, which he helped establish, advises Elon’s chapter of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, and routinely tutors fifth- and sixth-grade students in math and science. He is a firm believer that service develops leadership skills, something he says will influence his tenure as mayor. “That’s been a major driver in my initiative to serve the community, and to identify and mentor leaders,” he says. “That’s building the success of the future generation; we all have something to contribute as mentors.”