Built on a Firm Family Foundation: Robert, Susan & Stephanie Butts and Mike & Lauren McDonald


A few decades ago, it was the norm for two or more generations of families to live and work together in close proximity. But in today’s highly mobile—even transient— world, it’s become uncommon. Refreshingly, the members of the Butts-McDonald family of Haile Village have returned to that earlier mode of continuity and closeness.

Robert (Bob) Butts and his wife Susan, a teacher, are natives of Sebring, Florida, where they married in 1979. They have two daughters:  Lauren Butts McDonald, an ophthalmologist in private practice, and Stephanie Butts, an attorney with the Allen Law Firm. Both practice their professions in Gainesville.

During their early married life, Bob and Susan operated both a construction company and a retail business in Sebring. In the mid-1990s, they decided to switch gears and move to Gainesville so that Bob could pursue a law degree. He graduated from the University of Florida Levin Law School in 1996 and began his new career. Today, he is partners with Marc Warner and Michael Sechrest in the law firm of Warner, Sechrest & Butts, PA, located in Haile Village. Bob said, “Our firm does a variety of law, including construction law, business law, and personal injury.”  Demonstrating a strong spirit of community involvement, the law firm also received the 2012 Chief Justice’s Pro bono Service Award.

After moving to Gainesville, Susan continued her teaching career at Terwiliger Elementary where, over the years, she’s worked as a reading coach and taught almost every subject. Today, Susan is the Curriculum Resource teacher in charge of instructional materials, training teachers, and administering standardized testing. She says, “My favorite part of the job is sidewalk duty, because I like to greet, interact with, and get to know the students as individuals.”

Susan is grateful that as a teacher, she was able to keep a regular schedule for her young daughters. She added, “Since we were on the same timeline each day, I could be there for after-school sports and musical activities and be home with Lauren and Stephanie on the holidays. Now they are young adults, and Bob and I are so proud of them.”

Although law is Bob’s primary occupation, he also owns Advanced Building Concepts, Inc., a company that has built custom homes in Greystone, Town of Tioga, Haile Plantation and Steinhatchee. Bob commented, “Susan has always helped me with all of the office duties for the company, and our girls even spent some weekends helping us sweep out homes on our construction sites. Now we’re privileged to have our son-in-law, Mike, running the day-to-day operations, and he’s doing a superb job.”

A native of Gainesville, Mike McDonald earned his BS degree in Construction Management from the University of North Florida in 2008. Mike’s father, Tony McDonald, MD, is a general surgeon in Gainesville, now with the Veterans Administration Hospital after twenty-seven years of private practice. It was he who encouraged his son to ask Lauren on a date while she was in medical school at UF. The two of them hit it off, and became engaged to each other during Lauren’s first year of residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Mike and Lauren married on January 1, 2011 and moved back to Gainesville in July 2013, where Lauren began her ophthalmology practice as an associate with Dr. John Dryfuss.

On providing comprehensive eye care to patients, Lauren observed, “It’s such a pleasure to be able to help improve people’s vision. I hold clinic four days a week and do various types of surgery the other day. Although I’m grateful for my trauma and emergency experience in Nashville because it helped me learn, it’s also made me appreciate being in the more relatively calm environment of private practice in Gainesville. Here, it’s possible to build long-term care giving relationships, which are very satisfying.”

The youngest of the family, Stephanie Butts, graduated from UF in 2009 with a BA in marketing and went on to earn her law degree from the University of Mississippi. Upon returning to Gainesville in 2012 to begin her career in the law, she commented, “It was nice to live in a different part of the country and make new friends, but I am glad to be home and doing something that I really enjoy.”

Mike McDonald’s professional background includes three years of commercial building experience at PPI Construction Management in Gainesville, as well as building custom homes in Nashville. Now he’s fully involved with Advanced Building Concepts here in Gainesville. Mike commented, “I like working with customers and being a part of the process from design through the finish. We are committed to giving our customers a positive experience and a great product and work closely with architects and subcontractors through every phase of the building process.”  Of Mike’s skill and dedication, father-in-law Bob says, “We couldn’t be more pleased to have Mike taking over the reins of the business. He’s brought fresh ideas, original thoughts, and wonderful energy to our projects.” In 2014, they look forward to building homes in the Town of Tioga, Bella Vista and Greystone.

Bob and Susan Butts are Haile Plantation residents, having built their most recent home in Haile Village in 2002. They are also very involved at Grace United Methodist Church where Susan has been in a twelve-woman small group for over ten years. She noted, “We’ve been fortunate to build a strong bond among ourselves, having dealt with all types of health, marriage, children and job crises over the years. Bob is on the leadership council at church, and we also enjoy contributing to the activities of the Interfaith Hospitality Network.”  Lauren and Mike are avid runners and make good use of the trails in Haile Plantation where they also live. Stephanie visits often and continues to take advantage of Haile’s many amenities.

In his free time, Bob enjoys music.  He said, “I like all music, and enjoy playing music with other musicians. I find that it’s a relaxing outlet and another way to share good times with people.”  Susan added, “Sometimes Lauren joins in on the piano, and Stephanie accompanies her dad on drums, but I’m just the family groupie.”

Built on the firm foundation of family ties, the lives of Bob, Susan, and Stephanie Butts and Mike and Lauren McDonald are filled with purpose and fulfillment. They derive pleasure by working hard at their various careers, and by simply being together.

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