Quietly doing what she promised

Published 12:48 pm Saturday, March 9, 2013

Eight months into the Raystine Johnson-Ashburn administration at Franklin City Hall, say this much for the new mayor:

She is among the ever contracting lot of politicians who do in office what they promised while campaigning.

Granted, Johnson-Ashburn’s campaign platform was simplistic:

1. Restore the job of mayor to the ceremonial and parliamentary position that the city charter designed it to be.

2. Restore order in City Council meetings.

3. Build bridges inside and outside council chambers.

Then again, simplicity was largely the point of her taking on a longtime incumbent who many figured would have the job as long as he wanted it.

Predecessor Jim Councill, for all of his talents as a public servant, had gradually alienated council colleagues — and, by extension, supporters (voters) of those colleagues — with a propensity for overreaching and micromanaging. The final straw: a public-relations debacle resulting from a failed flirtation with the Navy on the use of Franklin Municipal Airport for pilot training.

Johnson-Ashburn, in a recent talk to the Rotary Club of Franklin, declared, with obvious satisfaction, that day-to-day management of city government is back in the hands of the city manager.

By all accounts from those who should know, Randy Martin, the relatively new city manager who came to Franklin from Morehead City, N.C., is more than up to the task, having validated the confidence that the council placed in him.

Noticeable, too, is the improved decorum at council meetings, which had become something of a three-ring circus in recent years. It’s hard to know whether to attribute the congenial atmosphere to Johnson-Ashburn’s leadership or to the suddenly subdued Greg McLemore, the bombastic Ward 3 councilman who has had little to say since his failed mayoral bid last spring. Perhaps the former caused the latter.

Most impressive on the Johnson-Ashburn mayoral resumé has been the unprecedented cooperation between the City of Franklin and neighboring Southampton County.

Hers is just the sort of humble, unassuming personality that was essential to defrosting city-county relations and getting the two neighbors talking. Ronnie West and Barry Porter deserve equal credit for bringing county government to the table of cooperation.

It all adds up to a quiet, but effective, transition for Franklin’s new mayor. Just the way she wanted it.

STEVE STEWART is the publisher of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at steve.stewart@tidewaternews.com.