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Aldermen to councilmembers: Franklin changes its town board name

Aldermen to councilmembers: Franklin changes its town board name

The town of Franklin Board of Aldermen will now officially be referred to as the Franklin Town Council after the board voted 3-2 to change its charter.

The discussion over what to be called began months ago during a board retreat when the town’s high school intern mentioned that many people her age didn’t know what the term alderman meant as it relates to town government. 

It’s still a common term for local elected leaders throughout Western North Carolina — Canton, Maggie Valley, Bryson City and Waynesville all still use the term for their elected town board — but the term literally translates into “old man.”

Mayor Bob Scott floated the idea of changing the town board name to town council not just for the sake of clarity but also to recognize that the town board is no longer only made up of old men. Changing to the gender neutral term of councilmembers makes more sense for a board that includes two women as well as two men under the age of 40. 

The cost of making the charter change — up to $8,000 — made some board members uncertain about going through with it, but Town Manager Summer Woodard said the cost could be much less if the town does it in phases. For example, instead of paying $18 a page to reprint the town’s charter and code of ordinances, the town can pay for one cover page that states any reference to aldermen should now be considered town council or councilmember. The town will also phase out its nameplates, which cost about $100 a piece. 

The board was set to vote on the issue during its May 1 meeting, but the board agreed to table it since Councilmember Billy Mashburn — who was against the change — was unable to make the meeting.

When it was time to finally vote in the issue May 15, it passed 3-2 with Mashburn and Councilmember Joe Collins opposing. Councilmember Patti Abel was absent from the meeting. 

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