Not one face is changing in Franklin’s local government despite close contests for mayor and aldermen.
In a neck-and-neck race, Franklin Mayor Joe Collins beat out Alderman Bob Scott by only 14 votes to reclaim the office for another two years.
All three incumbents, Jerry Evans, Billy Mashburn, and Sissy Pattillo, held on to their seats for the next four years, edging out challengers Ron Winecoff and Angela Moore. Scott retains his board seat.
Collins and Pattillo interpreted the election results as a vote of confidence by Franklin residents.
“We have a board that in the last two years has done more toward the future of Franklin than any board has in any two-year period I can remember,” said Collins. “The town can expect we’ll move further ahead.”
“It was the quietest election I’ve even seen,” Pattillo said. “Usually when an election is quiet we’ve done something right.”
Meanwhile, Scott, whose campaign sounded the call for a more open and participatory government, said he would make the most of his two years left on the board.
“The mayor certainly didn’t get a landslide,” said Scott. “The voters have spoken, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to quiet down. I’ve got two more years and I’m going to give it my all.”
Collins acknowledged that Scott spent a lot of time and energy in his campaign, effectively using the Internet to reach voters.
“It was a close race, closer than a lot of people thought it would be,” said Collins. “Bob worked very hard.”
With an alderman and a mayor in stiff competition, tensions might carry over into Collins’ next term. During his campaign, Scott accused Collins of not always being forthcoming as mayor specifically by leaving him out of the loop on decisions like a three-year contract with CGI Communications to produce a series of streaming online videos about Franklin.
Collins retorted that communication is a two-way street and not every decision requires board approval now that the position of town manager has been created.
Moving forward, the board will have to decide what to do with the 13-acre Whitmire property on the east side of town and plans for a public park commemorating the historic Nikwasi mound.
While Collins said he favors a mixed-use development that will rush the Whitmire property back into the town’s tax base, Scott said he’d rather see the town hold on to the property to develop a museum, civic center, or a park.
Collins acknowledged that the pieces haven’t fallem into place on the Nikwasi park development but added that the project still had broad support.
“I think everybody in the end would love to see a park,” said Collins.
Meanwhile, Scott said the town should take a step back, do a feasibility study, and make sure the committee spearheading the project is inclusive and transparent throughout the planning process.
After Scott’s two years are up, he says he’ll officially retire his political career and return to his roots as a newspaper writer.
“I’ll be 71 years old,” said Scott. “I’ve learned a lot. I just don’t think politics are for me. I’ll go back to writing some commentary ... probably something scathing.”
Joe Collins (I) 255
Bob Scott 241
Seats up for election: 3
Total seats on board: 6
Billy Mashburn (I) 350
Sissy Pattillo (I) 313
Jerry Evans (I) 241
Ron Winecoff 234
Angela Moore 225
Registered voters: 2,651