Johnson discusses jobs, Navy

Published 9:46 am Saturday, April 14, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of interviews with Franklin’s three mayoral candidates in the May 1 election. Click here to download the full audio interview.

FRANKLIN—Franklin Councilwoman Raystine Johnson discussed jobs, charter amendments, the proposed Navy pilot training at Franklin’s airport, the school system and a $1 million shortfall to the city’s Power and Light Department with The Tidewater News Wednesday.

Johnson, 53, and Councilman Greg McLemore, 53, are challenging Mayor Jim Councill, 67, for the two-year seat during the May 1 election. The job pays $10,437 annually.

The manager of Wm. M. Johnson and Sons Funeral Home, Johnson said City Council should help create jobs in the city. She believes it can be done by strengthening the city’s relationship with Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. and developing a marketing plan.

“We have to increase the relationship with FSEDI,” Johnson said.

She said if the two groups have an open dialogue it would make challenges easier to overcome.

Johnson said the city needs to evaluate opportunities and look at Pretlow Industrial Park to “find out if we can house businesses that may be interested.”

A council member since 1999, Johnson said many were “enraged” by the mayor’s decision to continue discussing a proposal to bring Navy pilot training to Franklin after the council had cut off negations.

“Any issue that comes before council should be a council decision, so you have to have council involved,” Johnson said. “The process in the beginning, the consensus of council told the mayor to have at least three members of council — the mayor, another member of council and the city attorney — to discuss with the admiral so there would be more ears hearing the discussion. That was not done.”

As mayor, she said she wouldn’t represent the city without the blessing of council.

Johnson still supports the proposed charter amendments that failed to pass the General Assembly during its latest session.

“I stand firm on believing the motions made and approved were the best for our citizens,” Johnson said. “As far as the changes not being passed in this General Assembly, I think the political climate there in Richmond maybe affected that.”

She supports sending the amendments back to Richmond.

Johnson said Franklin City Public Schools have great administrators and teachers, “but there’s always room for improvement.”

She participated in an effort to bring about a referendum to switch from appointed school board members to elected members, but the effort fell short of getting the required number of signatures on a petition.

Johnson feels that the appointment process could work if given more teeth.

“I’m not against elected school boards, but since we already have this process in place, I would recommend council review the system to see how effective it is,” she said.

The council recently learned about a $1 million loss in its electric department’s reserves, but Johnson said the issue cannot be solved until City Manager Randy Martin researches the matter.

Cutting expenditures or reviewing the decision to stop reducing by $150,000 the transfer from the electric fund to the city’s general fund are options. The city currently gets $1.5 million in profit from the electric fund transfer each year.

“We have to keep in mind we do not generate power. We are sold power,” Johnson said. “We cannot sell it to citizens for less than we have purchased it for, so we always have to keep that in mind.”