Franklin gets new wave of candidates
Franklin could potentially see a significant changing of the guard during this year’s election with three open seats on the board of aldermen.
Six people are vying for the open seats — two incumbents and four challengers. With Alderman Farrell Jamison deciding not to run again, the board will for sure have one new member with the potential for even more younger faces to enter the political realm for the first time.
“This is an exciting time in the history of Franklin,” said candidate Brandon McMahan. “There are lot of exciting things going on and I’d like to be a part of the decision-making process during this time.”
Joining McMahan in the under-40 group is local business owner Adam Kimsey and stay-at-home mom Angela Moore, who used to work for the town.
Kimsey said he is running because people have asked him to and he knows people in his age group tend to be uninvolved in local politics.
Moore said she is running because she wants to cut taxes, protect personal property rights and make sure the town’s ordinances are enforced equitably.
Incumbents Joyce Handley and Verlin Curtis are running to keep their seats on the board, and former Franklin alderman and mayor Joe Collins is running to serve on the board again.
What are their goals?
Collins has three main goals — to work on plans to secure an alternative water source for the town, market and sell the Whitmire property acquired by the town 10 years ago, and to construct more permanent structures on the town square.
Collins said right now the town’s sole source of water is Cartoogechaye Creek, but the town needs to begin looking toward future options.
“It’s OK for now, but there’s not a lot of room for growth and it takes a long time for planning and permitting,” he said.
With so many events occurring downtown and at the town square, Collins said he would like to see the town invest some money in building a permanent stage for performances and public bathrooms for downtown patrons.
Kimsey and McMahan said they would like to see better communication and cooperation between the town and other community organizations. If all the groups know what the other is doing, the town can have a cohesive plan for the future, McMahan said.
Sound infrastructure is something all the candidates agree is needed to ensure Franklin can accommodate future growth and make the town appealing for new businesses and residents.
Curtis said most residents don’t see the work the board puts into planning and infrastructure. He said he worked for two years to help put together the town’s Principles of Growth and Unified Development Ordinance. The town has also put a lot of money into upgrading the water treatment plant to increase capacity.
Kimsey said the areas’ natural resources are another reason people are drawn to Franklin.
“Our natural resources — mountains and rivers — we need to make sure we protect those as we work toward growth,” he said.
To capitalize on those natural resources, McMahan said he would like to see more bicycle lanes and pedestrian-friendly areas.
Moore said he first goal is to lower taxes. She said the town could reduce taxes by cutting out the $40,000 spent every year supporting charities and cutting contributions for economic development, the chamber of commerce and events like Pickin’ in the Park.
“That’s the people’s money and it should be our goal to let them keep as much as they can to do what they want with it,” Moore said.
Handley said tax is always a dreaded word but a necessary evil for local governments to operate. When costs are constantly on the rise, she said it was naïve to think the town won’t have to raise the tax rate at some point.
Giving to nonprofits
Moore was the only candidate opposed to the nonprofit donations the town makes each year. She said the government should not forcibly take money from taxpayers to give to charities. She said individuals could best decide how to spend their money.
Handley said the nonprofits that apply for funding have to go through a lengthy process and submit their budget and show what the money will go toward. If they don’t use the money properly, they won’t receive funding the next time they apply.
“So many people are hurting out there,” she said. “If we can reach out and help others we should.”
Collins said he had a record of supporting the nonprofit funding while on the board.
“It does build the fabric of our community,” he said. “We need to be wise stewards of the money we raise through taxes and fees but I will not apologize for the current expenditure.”
Curtis said the organizations the town gave money to were helping repair roofs for the disabled and elderly, providing health care for the poor and feeding people who would otherwise go hungry.
“These organizations that provide a service are very important and the funding is minimal,” he said.
McMahan said he fully supported the idea of government helping others because it was the moral and efficient thing to do. The nonprofits are more qualified to provide the services than the local government.
“I think nonprofits are great but I don’t necessarily think it should be unchecked or without oversight,” Kimsey said. “We need to make sure we’re putting our money in the best place we can.”
As a tourist destination, keeping Franklin’s downtown in good shape and offering visitors a fun experience are always top priorities for the town board.
Handley said it was great to see so many new businesses opening up downtown —many of which are owned by young entrepreneurs. She said the town has encouraged landlords to fix up their buildings to keep downtown looking great for visitors but can’t force them to do anything with their private property.
While the town can’t directly create private jobs, Curtis said the town could attract private entrepreneurs by making sure Franklin has the needed infrastructure and quality of life standards that will attract businesses to the area.
Kimsey agreed that economic development would come naturally if the town provides the basics like quality water and sewer services. He added that having more bike paths and better sidewalks would improve the quality of life for Franklin.
When he thinks of community development, McMahan said he thinks of the town’s festivals because they are a huge draw to Franklin. He would like to see the festivals improved and perhaps even expand the number of festivals throughout the year.
Collins said recruiting new businesses was mostly a county economic development commission function, but the town can attract entrepreneurs simply by making sure the town is in order and provide support for businesses.
Moore said community development was not the role of government and bolstering one area of town — like downtown — over another area becomes a special interest. She said the festivals were more successful when volunteers ran them.
“We take something away from the community when we hire someone to do it,” she said.
Six candidates are running for three available seats
Brandon McMahan, 33
• Profession: Second grade teacher at Iotla Valley Elementary, former business owner
• Political experience: Currently serves on the Franklin Planning Board
• Why are you running? “This is an exciting time in the history of Franklin. There are lot of exciting things going on and I’d like to be a part of the decision making process during this time.”
Joe Collins, 60
• Profession: Attorney
• Political experience: Franklin Alderman from 1997-2003 and mayor from 2003-2013
• Why are you running? “I just saw an opportunity to continue to serve. I’ve got a lot of experience and reasonable approach to things that voters and town residents can appreciate.”
Joyce Handley, 74
• Profession: Receptionist at Franklin Health & Fitness and Nantahala Physical Therapy
• Political experience: Served one year on the planning board and eight years as alderman
• Why are you running? “Because I love the town of Franklin and I’m loving being an alderman — I like to have my opinion count for something. It doesn’t mean they always agree with me but hopefully I can make some changes for the good.”
Angela Moore, 35
• Profession: Stay-at-home mom of 3; former town of Franklin employee
• Political experience: None
• Why are you running? “I am a native of Franklin. My husband and I love it here. I want to see not just my rights and money protected but for all the people around me. When I worked for town seven years ago it was when I got to help people that made my job great and I want to do that again.”
Verlin Curtis, 80
• Profession: Owner of Curtis TV and Radio Shack
• Political experience: 12 years as alderman, chairman of Macon County Airport Authority
• Why are you running? “I’ve paid taxes in Franklin for 50 years and now I have privilege to vote in town (since being annexed). I’ve been an alderman for 12 years and want to continue to serve.”
Adam Kimsey, 30
• Profession: Co-owner of The Rathskeller Coffee Haus & Pub
• Political experience: None
• Why are you running? “I’m mainly running because I care. If you’re not sure if you want to vote for me come by and talk to me — I’m at the Rathskeller all the time. I can’t promise to do everything — it’s just not possible — but I will do my best to make the best choices for the people.”