Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
Franklin Mayor Bob Scott wants to see the town board’s identity be more inclusive and has started the process to potentially change how the town leaders identify themselves.
Since Franklin’s Charter was issued, dating back to the 1800s, members of the Franklin town government have been identified as aldermen. While alderman means a member of the town council, the title is derived from the Old English title of ealdorman, literally meaning “elder man,” and was used by the chief nobles presiding over shires.
Mayor Bob Scott would like to see the phrase changed to town council to be more inclusive of the women who serve as town leaders. “Alderman is not exactly generic,” Mayor Scott said in February at the board’s mid-year retreat. “It’s aiming towards men. And alderwoman is very awkward.”
According to Scott, the Town of Franklin is one of the few municipalities in the state to still use the term to denote town government board members. Both the town of Sylva and the town of Highlands refer to their boards as commissioners, which Scott said can also be confusing since that is what the county leaders are identified as.
Scott presented a proposal to his fellow board members during the March meeting to change the name. The board cannot change the name without input, so Scott asked the board to approve a public hearing on the issue. Billy Mashburn cast the lone dissenting vote against moving forward with the public hearing to consider the name change.
Although the vote was not unanimous, the resolution proposed by Scott passed with a public hearing set for 7:05 p.m. on April 3. A notice of the public hearing will be advertised for the public. Following the public hearing, the town will take a vote of the proposed name change.
According to Town Manager Summer Woodard, the change would come at a cost.
“The cost according to American Legal Publishing is $18 per page,” Woodard said of how much it would cost to officially update the town’s Charter to reflect the change if approved. “This can vary depending on the number of times the term is used per page. However, some pages may not use the term at all.”
Scott said the change is about more than just including the female board members, but believes the term town council better explains the board’s role to the community. Scott’s fellow board members agreed that they often get asked what an “alderman” does.
During the retreat, the board’s female members, Alderman Patti Abel and Alderman Barbara McRae both said that they didn’t mind the phrase and weren’t offended by its meaning leaning toward a “male” title. They both were indifferent about the title or the change, but did support Mayor Scott in putting the issue on the agenda for public input.