A dozen candidates gunning for just four seats in Franklin town election
This year’s election in Franklin is shaping up to be one of the most interesting — and crowded — the town has seen in a decade, or more.
There’s a dozen candidates in all: 10 vying for the town board and two for mayor seat.
The field of candidates is varied, too — from a former newspaper editor to an architect to a stay-at-home mom. They range in age from 27 to 77.
At a candidate forum last week, each took a chance to sound off on the reasons behind their candidacy. While the answers were varied, economic development was a recurring theme — although candidates have different ideas of how to get there.
Angela Hubbs Moore, 32, wants to lower taxes and reduce town spending.
“Economic development is best served by reducing the amount of taxes,” she said at the forum.
Thomas Ritter, an architect in town, painted a bleak picture of the state of Franklin. He proposed investing in Angel Medical Center and making Franklin more attractive to job seekers as one way to remediate a sluggish local economy.
“There’s not a business in town that’s thriving,” Ritter said.
The candidate participation in this November’s Franklin election comes as a bit of a surprise in comparison to the town election two years ago, when only the incumbents ran and voter turnout was low.
Part of the attraction for candidates this year is the promise of open seats. Long-time Mayor Joe Collins isn’t running for re-election, prompting two of the current aldermen to forsake their seats on the town board and run for mayor instead — namely Bob Scott and Sissy Pattillo. That made the race wide-open, with newcomers guaranteed to take as least two seats on the town board. A third alderman seat is also up for election, currently held by Billy Mashburn, who is running to keep his seat.
Town Alderman Farrell Jamison, whose seat is not up for election, speculated that the two open seats might have been enticing for candidates on the fence about whether to run.
“Since two of the aldermen decided to run for mayor, that would open vacant slots for somebody to run,” Jamison said. “The last several elections, there have not been that many candidates run.”
But the issues run deeper than just an opportunity to win an up-for-grabs alderman seat, according to Matt Bateman, one of the organizers of the candidate forum and a founder of the community action group Venture Local. Though fiscal responsibility and the town’s water and sewer infrastructure are concerns of many residents, he characterized the newfound political interest in town as something bigger.
“It’s just time for change in leadership in Franklin,” he said. “And folks in Franklin are just starting to get that.”
The variety of candidates is a welcome aspect of the town election, and much better for voters than the limited participation and options they had two years ago, he added.
“I’ve been pushing and encouraging people to try to vote and run for the board,” he said. “It’s only going to make for a more healthy, diverse election.”
At last week’s forum, candidates accused current town government of making poor property purchases, overspending on a “lavish” new town hall renovation, allowing imprudent development that threatens the environment and not promoting itself as a tourist destination or fostering a healthy small business climate.
“People go to Asheville, Sylva, Waynesville — we need to make sure we create that for Franklin,” said Adam Kimsey, the youngest candidate at 27 years old. “We’re not those towns, but we can look at them and take some of those ideas.”
At least two candidates said aldermen needed to cooperate better amongst themselves and with other entities like Macon County. Emmanuel Carrion, a local business owner running for alderman, mentioned the incident surrounding the Nikwasi Mound and discord between county commissioners and town aldermen.
“Collaboration is the key,” Carrion said. “Instead of two bubbles, it needs to be one bubble.”
Mashburn, who is fighting to retain his seat, defended the board’s record at the forum. He said the county and the town have regular meetings and consistently collaborate on a host of issues, like lobbying for or against state legislation.
“The town board has always tried to work with the county when we could,” he said, though his primary reason for running is to improve the town’s infrastructure.
Alderman Verlin Curtis, while not running for re-election, defended the town’s current direction as well. He said some of the criticism dished out by candidates at the forum was uncalled for. He alleged that candidates who were quick to take jabs at town government were nowhere to be seen when the issues were being debated at town meetings.
“There are some folks who feel like they can do a better job,” Curtis said. “After I listened at the forum, I realized that some of them didn’t much know what they were getting into.”
It’s hard to peg whether the election will swing the board one way or another. With so many candidates to choose from, the top three vote-getters could easily be comprised of several different combinations of political ideologies and backgrounds.
That outlook was intriguing to Kristina Moe, a member of the county’s League of Women Voters, a co-organizer of the forum. Moe noted that there are three candidates in their 20s or 30s, several candidates who own businesses and have never been in political office before.
“What impressed me was that there were so many young people running and so many people that hadn’t been involved in politics before,” she said.
Though the alderman races may have a mix of candidates, young and old, the mayoral race is a match up between two of the town’s political veterans.
Candidates Sissy Pattillo and Bob Scott have served collectively for nearly two decades as aldermen. Both are 72 years old.
During that time, Scott, retired from a career in law enforcement and journalism, has earned a name for himself as an independent, willing to go against the grain. At a candidate’s forum in Franklin last week, Scott touted that record as a reason why he’d make a good mayor and leader of the town.
“I’ve been the lone vote against several issues,” Scott said. “I do not believe in groupthink.”
Though the mayor in Franklin only votes in tiebreakers, they play an important role in setting the tone of meetings and guiding the board members.
“The mayor’s jobs is to inspire and motivate,” Scott said.
Pattillo has her own ideas of what it means to lead and shared those with attendees at last week’s forum.
“I also feel like the mayor creates the atmosphere for the town,” Pattillo said.
Tracing her lineage back three generations in Macon County, she believe she would do a good job looking ahead while also acknowledging the town’s past. She sees herself as a unifier for Franklin, being able to foster collaboration for the betterment of the community.
“I feel it is very important for people to work together,” Pattillo said. “With collaboration, with all of us working together, we can move our town forward.”
Election forum for mayor candidates
The Macon County League of Women Voters will host a forum for mayoral candidates for the town of Franklin at noon Thursday, Oct. 10, at Tartan Hall.
Longtime mayor Joe Collins is stepping down, and two candidates, Sissy Pattillo and Bob Scott, have decided to run for the position. Both currently serve as aldermen on the town board. By focusing just on the mayoral candidates, the forum will provide for more in-depth discussion by Scott and Pattillo. All are invited, and attendees are welcome to bring a bag lunch.
The League of Women Voters is a nationwide non-partisan organization that focuses on voter education, voter rights, and citizen participation in government and community.
Meet the candidates
Adam Kimsey — 27, entrepreneur
“People go to Asheville, Sylva, Waynesville — we need to make sure we create that for Franklin. We’re not those towns, but we can look at them and take some of those ideas.”
Emmanuel Carrion — 34, business owner
Carrion said he would like to improve the local economy to encourage youth to stay in Franklin and perhaps start their own business. “Without supporting the local businesses, you’re not even giving those kids a chance.”
Thomas Ritter — 52, architect
Ritter said he would like to see the town invest in improving Angel Medical Center, for economic and health reasons.
“What a frightening thought that I might lose a hour and half of critical time because I have to go to Asheville.”
Barbara McRae — 70, retired newspaper editor
“I would like to explore expanding parks and recreation places in town, closer to more people,” like the Franklin greenway, she said. “It’s such a tremendous asset for the town.”
Angela Hubbs Moore — 32, stay-at-home mom
“Economic development is best served by reducing the amount of taxes. The free market as a whole will always make better economic decisions than the government.”
Billy Mashburn — 61
“I would like to retain my seat specifically because of all the water and sewer issues coming up in the future.”
Patti Halyburton Abel — 41, business owner
“Tourism and second homes make up a large part of our local revenue. People come here for natural beauty — we need to work with the county to preserve it.”
Mack Brogden — 62, retired
Brogden said town leaders need to work to attract new businesses and promote economic growth to maintain a vibrant community. “What I want to see is jobs. You can’t thrive on just a retirement community.”
W.H. Derrick — 77, retired
“Roads, the infrastructure — that’s the biggest. The roads and infrastructure in this town are terrible.”
Marshall Henson — 73, retired retail sales
“Something that is not right I’m going to be against that — spending is the biggest thing, waste. I think we spend a lot of money foolishly.”