Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
In a split 3-2 vote, the Franklin Town Board voted to amend the governing board’s charter changing the board’s name from Town Board of Aldermen to Town Council. The intent behind the change was led by Franklin Mayor Bob Scott, who wanted to change how the board identifies to be more inclusive.
Scott has worked over the last few months petitioning the board to change the charter to no longer be referred to as town aldermen, which left board members being called aldermen or alderwomen.
In addition to being more inclusive of female members of the board, Scott said changing the name would clarify the board’s role as the general public doesn’t know what alderman means or what they do.
What members of the town board voted on Monday night, does change the board from Board of Aldermen to Town Council, but doesn’t leave any explanation as to how the individual members of the board should be identified. While public notices will say council members, in reference to individual members of the board, the terms councilmen and councilwomen would be appropriate based on the new identification as a Town Council.
When explaining his vote, Councilman Brandon McMahan stated he would like to see the necessary changes made gradually as the town changes its style of government.
Town Manager Summer Woodard said that the town’s charter and documents that would have to be changed mentioned the term “Aldermen” 130 times and would cost the town $2,300 to update to reflect the board’s vote.
In addition to the $2,300, Woodard said that business cards and nameplates would be extra expenses to make the change. To make the change immediately, it would cost the town of Franklin $18, which would be the legal cost to change the first page of the town’s Code of Ordinances.
Councilwoman Patti Abel, who was not at Monday night’s meeting, had previously said her objection to the change was due to the fact that she didn’t want the current board to vote on an expense that a future board would have to fund. While some board members like Councilman McMahan wants to see the cost, which would be around $4,000-$5,000 total to implement phased in over time, Councilwoman Abel was against the change for that reason.
Councilmen Joe Collins and Billy Mashburn both voted against the change, which they described as being an unnecessary expense. If Councilwoman Abel had been at the meeting to make the vote 3-3, Scott would have been the tie breaker.
Scott said in March that the Town of Franklin was one of the few municipalities in the state that still use the term, however in Western North Carolina, aldermen is by far the most commonly used term to refer to town boards. Of the 17 municipalities in the seven westernmost counties, including Franklin, nine municipalities refer to their town leaders as aldermen. Council member is the next moniker with four towns using the title, followed by commissioner which is used by three towns. The Town of Dillsboro in Jackson County uses the name “alderperson” to identify their leaders.