Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
What started as a race of eight candidates vying for three vacant town board seats has dwindled before voters even get a chance to cast their ballot on Election Day. Kevin Klatt and Daniel Coates both filed to run for Franklin Town Council, but days before early voting began, both men contacted the Board of Elections office notifying them of their decision to drop out of the race. Unfortunately for voters, the ballots had already been printed so although neither men want to be elected, both of their names are still on the ballot. If Klatt were to win one of the open seats, the existing town council will appoint someone to retain his seat. Coates, however, said that while he wanted to withdraw, if he was to win, he would accept the position.
The challengers in the town council race were featured in a profile article last week, and this week, incumbents Joe Collins and Brandon McMahan answered questions about their decision to run for re-election.
Joe Collins, a 64-year-old attorney, was born and raised in Franklin, right on Forest Avenue. He and his wife Pam, who works for the school system, have three children. Collins has practiced law in Franklin for more than 30 years. His eldest son, Ward, has joined Collins’ firm and also practices law in town. Collins has served on the town board for 20 of the last 22 years, 10 as a council member, and 10 as Mayor of Franklin.
“It is my contribution to the town I love,” Collins said of his reason for running for town council. “Too many residents, who are very capable, are just not willing to serve. There is no glamour in the job, and it certainly does not pay well, but we need good people on the board, and I am a good person.”
If reelected to the council, Collins said his top three priorities are:
“A. To continue to develop a future water source; B. To assist the Nikwasi Initiative with the development of the Indian Mound property; and C. To bring the Whitmire Property back to life.”
Collins believes the town’s infrastructure, particularly water, sewer, and sidewalks remain the biggest issue facing the town.
“Twenty years of practical experience,” Collins said when asked what makes him the most qualified candidate. “A reasonable approach. No inflated ego. No axe to grind.”
McMahan is a 37-old-Franklin native who is happily married and has two children. “I love spending time with my family, Saturday morning walks downtown, and playing guitar,” said McMahan. “I teach science and social studies to sixth graders at Mountain View Intermediate school, and I currently serve on Franklin Town Council. Prior to being elected to Town Council, I served on the town’s planning board as well.”
After serving one term on the council, McMahan is seeking reelection.
“I’m running for office, because I really feel like my time with the board over the last four years has been a time of growth and positive change for our town,” he said. “I’ve learned a great deal about the job and what it takes, and I feel that I’ve been a part of some really great things. I’d like to continue both furthering my experience, and trying to make Franklin a better place.”
McMahan’s top three priorities are to finish projects he has seen started since first being elected.
“First, attracting more people, and especially more businesses to Franklin who mean to stay for the long-term is a big one,” said McMahan. “I think that improving infrastructure, beautifying the area, and always keeping the town in the public eye in a positive way will help with this.
“Secondly, making the town more friendly to pedestrian and bike traffic is still very important to me, and we are currently making progress on our walk and bike plan to do just that.
“Infrastructure needs will always be a top priority as well, and for that I look to the town manager, town engineer, town planner, and other town employees for guidance. I look forward to continuing to work closely with them, and to encouraging them, and giving them everything they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. I have complete faith in our town staff when infrastructure issues arise. I also feel that the town needs to make a greater effort to work cooperatively with the county on many issues, and I’d like to see that happen more in the future.”
As to the biggest issue facing the town, McMahan believes that attracting and keeping new businesses, which profile good-paying, steady jobs are the most important.
“There’s a lot of criteria you can use to determine if a person is most qualified, and by some metrics, I’m sure there are candidates more qualified than myself, but I believe that I am a good choice, because of my open-mindedness and willingness to listen to people and consider all sides of an argument before making a decision,” he said. “I’m really passionate about the future of our town, because not only is it my hometown, but it’s also where I plan to raise my boys, and there’s nothing more important to me than my family. I want to see the town growing in a positive direction for all of us, but when I think of the future of Franklin, I think about what kind of town we’re leaving to our children.”
With a pool of six candidates seeking three seats, McMahan believes there are several good candidates.
“I’m sure that all of the candidates have the best interests of Franklin at heart when they signed up to run for Town Council, and I’m sure that all of the candidates will try their best to steer Franklin in what they believe is a good direction,” said McMahan. “All I ask of voters, is that they choose candidates who they believe will work well together as a team, and be able to synergize well as they work together for the betterment of our home. I’ve really enjoyed the last four years of working with the current council, and I will miss working with the present lineup, but if I’m elected, I look forward to forming good working relationships with the new members, and seeing where the new council will take us.”
T.J Wright is also seeking election to the town council, but did not return a request for an interview as of press time.