Franklin candidates file for office

Published 11:12 am Wednesday, March 5, 2014

FRANKLIN—The election set for Tuesday, May 6, is shaping up with half of the open seats being contested.

Wards 3, 5 and 6, along with the mayor’s office, are up.

In Ward 3, incumbent Greg McLemore will be running against Rosa Lawrence, who had previously held the seat before McLemore, and Jamaal Brian Whitehurst. In Ward 5, incumbent Mary Hilliard will face off against Ricky Sykes.

Frank Rabil, Ward 6, and Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn will run unopposed.

Ward 3

McLemore, who had previously announced that he was still considering whether to run or not, decided to run Tuesday after being encouraged by people involved in Franklin’s politics.

“I got a positive response from the people in regards with our children,” he said. “I want to continue to give voice to the people in Ward 3, and the voiceless throughout the community.

“It is a sad state that there is a African-American majority council, and nobody is advocating issues of African-Americans, or poor people at large in Franklin. There are plenty of poor white people in the community that people are not being represented”

The issues he mentioned were high utility bills, the school system and fighting against the status quo.

Lawrence thought that the ward needed some new direction.

“We are trying to regroup, and get more business friendly with the other council members” she said. “We are trying to move forward and get things done, to keep Ward 3 more involved in what is going on.”

Whitehurst cited the school system and business as two of the issues that made him want to seek office, and he said they were hand-in-hand.

“Franklin is bringing in jobs, but not jobs that will provide competitive salaries and benefits,” he said. “In order for businesses to come to Franklin, I believe one of the issues that has to be fixed is the education system.”

The other issue was utility bills.

“The changes that council has made to utility bills are making it tough for the African-American community in particular,” Whitehurst said. “Then to add to those bills, is just hurting the community more.”

McLemore felt that he accomplished things during his tenure, including following up on the initiative that stopped the charter changes. He led the initiative against the Navy, he said. Also, crime has decreased and he added that he has been with the public on the school board issue.

“I would love for Mrs. Lawrence to say what she accomplished in four years,” he said. “If you want to return to the status quo, vote for her. If you like the idea of having someone who speaks on your behalf in Ward 3, I am available.

“Mr. Whitehurst. I like him, but he is not outspoken.”

Lawrence wanted to move in a positive direction.

“I can’t say that this will be a new beginning, but let’s move forward,” she said. “I am not for mud slinging. I want to run a positive and business-friendly campaign.”

Whitehurst did feel like he would be a step in the right direction ahead of the other candidates.

“I have been active in the community, and I have voiced my opinions on the concerns that I feel upset the citizens in ward 3 the most,” he said. “I am going to be a councilman who will be professional and not argumentative like the incumbent.

“I feel like his view points are good, but the way he articulates them are not good. The other candidate, I feel like the four years that candidate served, that member was kind of inactive and did not use an active voice for the ward.”

Ward 5

Hilliard said she felt that she could provide experience to the board.

“I want to continue to serve the people,” she said. “And to try to enhance the growth of the city of Franklin.”

For Sykes, it is about his love for the community.

“Anything I can do to help the community, I want to do that,” he said. “I feel like we need to do anything we can to help out with the schools, job creation and recreation. I just want to be given the chance to work for you.”

Hilliard declined to say anything about Sykes, but she added that education and jobs were what she felt like needed to improve in Franklin.

“I feel like we still need to look for jobs,” she said. “A few have come here already, but it is not enough. We also need to further support the educational process in the city.”

Sykes just felt like people in ward 5 needed an alternative voice from that of Hilliard’s, who has served for more than two decades.

“Mrs. Hilliard has done a fine job,” he said. “I have much respect for her, but I think people need a change.”

Ward 6 and Mayor

Ashburn-Johnson could not be reached for comment.

Rabil had three big issues in mind when he decided to run – schools, economic development and regionalism.

“We need to make sure we are providing the best possible education to our children,” he said. “We need to make sure we stay on the correct path as we move forward; not only with our local school board, but with the state’s department of education.

“I feel like economic development goes hand and glove with the schools. We need to be able to attract and retain people in the area, so we can continue to be a vibrant community.”

As far as regionalism, he was particularly interested in working with Southampton County on ways that would help mutual interest.

“I look forward to continued opportunities to do things jointly that would be of cost savings to both of us,” he said.

Rabil said he’s also eager to having the opportunity to serve the city.

“I think those of us who have grown up in this area have had excellent role models when we were growing up,” he said. “Hopefully, we will be able to impart some of that on the younger generation and get them interested in working to help the city.”