Ward 6 candidates tout value of small businesses

Published 8:30 am Friday, April 23, 2010

FRANKLIN—Two of the three men vying to represent Ward 6 on the City Council met before a sparse crowd Thursday night for a public forum at Paul D. Camp Community College’s Regional Workforce Development Center.

The two participating candidates, Ray Smith and Jamie Brown, had similar stances on a number of issues, including moving municipal elections from May to November. A third candidate, Don Blythe, didn’t participate in the forum, citing an unidentified out-of-town obligation.

“The incumbent always has the advantage in a May election because very few people come out to vote,” Smith said.

Brown, Smith and Blythe are competing to replace Councilman Mark Fetherolf, who isn’t seeking re-election.

Both Brown and Smith said job creation—specifically involving small businesses—needs to be a priority for the City Council.

“We’ve got to go out and find small businesses that employ 15, 20, 30 people, and we’ve got to have a lot of them,” Smith said. “They bring economic stability to an area.”

Brown said that it’s very unlikely that another business will come in and employ even close to the number of people at the International Paper Co. mill.

“We can become a city of small entrepreneurs,” he said. “Our future stands with small business and helping these people, whether they are displaced mill workers or not, develop their potential to become part of the business community.”

Both men also said that the city doesn’t have much to show so far for its five-year commitment to Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. Neither said the city should cut funding completely, but they did say the results should be closely scrutinized.

“We’ve still got one building in our industrial park and that’s it…I don’t think we’ve seen enough for our money,” Brown said.

Smith said the city and the county “probably need this joint relationship more today than we’ve ever needed it,” but “we should demand results.”

Both said that the city and Southampton County should continue to cooperate on economic development and should explore partnering for waste disposal. Both also agreed that the city reverting back to a town within the county would not likely be a good move.

The city’s public schools were also discussed. Brown said he “will always support public education.” He said the city’s schools were instrumental in the success of his own children.

Smith said the city needs to do what its neighbors have, and build new schools that embrace technology.

“We need new schools. We need technology in our schools so we can train the kids of the future to be active citizens of this town and not want to leave and go somewhere else,” he said.

Smith also said he would support replacing the city’s appointed school board with an elected one.

“We can’t just keep appointing people to the school board and think we’re going to change things,” he said. “People have to want this job, and they have to want it bad enough to go out and get elected.”

Both pledged that if they were elected they would listen to their constituents and they said Franklin still has a bright future, despite the closure of IP.

“We’ve had multiple disasters in this town…we’ve always been able to bounce back,” Smith said.

Brown said the city has a chance to reinvent itself.

“We have an opportunity that never existed before,” he said.