Johnson ousts Councill as mayor

Published 8:41 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Franklin Mayoral-elect Raystine Johnson and supporter Chuck Lilley look over results during Tuesday night's election. Johnson became the city's first elected black mayor. -- Dale Liesch | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson on Tuesday became the first elected black mayor and first female mayor in the city’s history, defeating 16-year incumbent Jim Councill.

Johnson, with 856 votes, or 44 percent of ballots cast, beat Councill, who had 723 votes, or 37 percent, and Ward 3 Councilman Greg McLemore, who received 358 votes, or 19 percent.

Johnson, a 12-year City Council member and manager of Johnson and Sons Funeral Home, said she wasn’t really focused on breaking down racial and

gender barriers but rather on “the things that we have to do.”

“There is work that has to be done,” said Johnson at a victory celebration with supporters at Simply Divine at Parker Drug restaurant. “I am concentrating on taking Franklin to a new level.”

Johnson is the first African-American to be elected to Franklin’s mayoral post. Dr. A.B. Harrison was the city’s first black mayor but was appointed to the seat.

Johnson thanked her supporters and acknowledged her council colleagues.

“It’s a group thing, not an ‘I’ thing,” said the 53-year-old, who drew public endorsements from Ward 1 Councilman Barry Cheatham and Ward 2 Councilman Benny Burgess.

Councill congratulated Johnson — but noted he thought it was an ugly campaign.

“I wish her well, and I wish the city well,” Councill said from his home on Hunterdale Road.

The owner of Councill Financial Concepts said he didn’t know if he would run for office again, adding he’s focused on serving out his current term for the next two months. Johnson will take office July 1.

The 67-year-old Councill plans to spend more time with his children and grandchildren and as bishop of Franklin’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I have served the city very hard and very faithfully,” Councill said. “I thought it would be more appreciated.”

McLemore will remain in his Ward 3 seat on the council as his term doesn’t expire for another two years. This is the 53-year-old’s second unsuccessful run for mayor as he lost in 2008 to Councill and Ellis Crum.

“The people have spoken, and they will get what they deserve,” said McLemore, a maintenance worker at Paul D. Camp Community College who formerly owned a nightclub and worked in the radio industry.

Johnson carried predominantly black Wards 3, 4 and 5 and ran stronger than expected in majority-white Wards 1, 2 and 6. She was backed by a group of prominent white business and professional leaders.

About 35 percent of the city’s 5,460 registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election.