Business community will hold leadership accountable

Published 8:49 am Saturday, May 5, 2012

by Michael Clark

The mayoral and City Council elections in Franklin are finally behind us, and aside from the usual mudslinging between the candidates, I enjoyed seeing people become vocal about their passions and beliefs on candidates and the issues at hand.

It’s the type of fire that needs to burn as brightly during non-election time as well. And it’s a process that allows us to examine our current leadership and decide if our community’s best interests are on the right course.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a resident of Southampton County and did not have a vote in this election. But, as owner and operator of a third-generation business in Franklin, I believe my voice on such matters is as relevant as ever.

I’ll also confess I didn’t agree with the manner in which Mayor Jim Councill went about pursuing the Navy training. And it became our obligation to examine the decision-making of an elected official.

However, having known Jim and his family for many years, I believe he felt in his heart that he was doing the right thing for our community and I appreciate his years of service to our community.

With Raystine Johnson’s victory, I believe a new day has dawned in the City of Franklin. We have before us fresh leadership with what I hope will be new approaches, new ideas and new ways of thinking.

However, here is my appeal to the leadership, business community and citizens of Franklin. Whether or not your candidate of choice was victorious, as a community we must, for the betterment of all concerned, bridge the divide that was created during the divisive issues of the past year and come together to solve the heady problems facing our community.

Since becoming president of the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, I have spoken to a variety of people from many viewpoints and positions within our city. One fact I’ve quickly come to understand is that our issues are not ones that just concern the African-American or Caucasian community, the rich or poor, the young or old, but are issues that truly affect all of Franklin’s residents.

Franklin’s leadership, which includes a newly elected mayor and city council member plus our new city manager, must begin the hard work and team effort needed to improve our public schools, our unemployment rate, rebuild our middle class and earnestly engage Southampton County to explore areas for shared services.

Specifically, the mayor-elect and each City Council member must, with transparency and utmost urgency, demonstrate they are leaders who can and will work together to “put the community agenda before self agenda.”

I know for a fact the business community is no longer idle; quietly standing by on the sidelines. We are engaged and will hold our leadership accountable.

MICHAEL CLARK is a Courtland resident, vice president of WLQM radio and president of the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at