Candidates look to improve economy

Published 12:05 pm Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mayor, Raystine Johnson-Ashburn

Incumbent and mayor candidate Raystine Johnson-Ashburn greets William Rose.

Incumbent and mayor candidate Raystine Johnson-Ashburn greets William Rose.

FRANKLIN—Incumbent Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn said the city has some challenges, but she feels like it is going in the right direction.

“I have learned a lot since I have been on council,” she said. “There was a serious learning curve when I became mayor two years ago, but I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve.

“I love the city of Franklin, and I am the best person for the position. I passionately care about what we have done, and where we are going. I would like another two years.”

The economy, education and continuing to partner with Southampton County are the big pieces of her platform.

“The economy is first, as that is the driver for everyone,” she said. “With FSEDI’s help, we have identified deficiencies in the Pretlow Industrial Park. It is now up to council to figure out how we can financially fund the solutions. Once we do that, it will greatly help us increase the marketability of Pretlow Industrial Park, which is key for Franklin.”

Small business is another big factor to her, as she also runs one, William Johnson and Sons Funeral Home in downtown Franklin.

“Small business is the core to our vibrant city,” she said. “We want to continue to put more into it. FSEDI and their micro-loan program have done a very good job toward addressing challenges we as small businesses face.”

Support is the key word for the school system.

“Education is the driver in many instances of the economy,” she said. “It is key, but as far as council taking a lead role, it is not our area. We have limitations as restricted by law. But we can be in support mode, as we always have been. We have to hear their concerns and address their concerns.

“They need both city council and community support. We are all going to have to unite, join together, and deal with the situation.”

Involving parents is another concern.

“We are going to promote through parks and recreation the whole family unit,” Johnson-Ashburn said. “We want parents to be more involved with their children.”

Another issue is crime.

“We want everyone to feel safe here in Franklin,” she said.

Collaboration with Southampton County will also lead to win-win situations, she said.

“As we get into the budget discussion, we will gauge just how successful it is and, hopefully, work to make it more successful. I’m real excited about this as we go forward.”

Government and agencies collaborating can bring good results, Johnson-Ashburn said.

“On Bruce Street, there was an apartment building going up for auction,” she said. “I found out, and I called Mr. Phillip Page, the executive director of housing development. I said, ‘I would love for you to do something with this building. I have seen the illegal activity that goes on there, and it is not in good shape at all.’ He said that he’d check into it.

“Lo and behold, he bought the building. And just look at it now. It’s a brand-new building.”

Johnson-Ashburn said, at the end of the day, she comes from a position of love of for the City of Franklin.

“I grew up here, I went to school here, and I graduated from high school here,” she said. “I am just in love with my home town. I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else.”

Mayor write-in, Ken Sanford

Write-in mayor candidate Ken Sanford talks to Lorene Hallbrooks, left, Sarah Skowronski, Derick Lawrence and Issac Hallbrooks. -- Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Write-in mayor candidate Ken Sanford talks to Lorene Hallbrooks, left, Sarah Skowronski, Derick Lawrence and Issac Hallbrooks. — Cain Madden | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—After being a leader in the U.S. Marines for 21 years, Ken Sanford thinks he is ready for the challenge of serving as mayor.

A veteran of Desert Storm, Sanford said, “If I can lead men in war, I can lead the city of Franklin.

“Some people don’t think I know what I am doing, but they don’t know what the military does. Working in supplies, I was responsible for a budget worth $30 million. There was no messing up.”

Education, the economy and utility bills are his platform.

“We need to make the electric bills bearable for everyone,” Sanford said. “I have a plan that I do not feel like it would be advantageous of me to release right now, but I will say it is being done by private electric companies.”

He also said there’s all kinds of money out there that the city could get a cut of, which could help them take some pressure off citizens.

“They are getting a cut from the liquor store, and the lottery,” Sanford said. “Where is that money going? If elected, I plan to be more transparent with where the money is going.”

Getting more jobs in Franklin is important, especially for the young people.

“The other day I was out talking to two young men, and I felt like with the right tools, they could be entrepreneurs,” he said. “We need to develop our young entrepreneurs with information, because information is power. The ideas are there, and they could be the job creators outside of what we bring in with corporations.”

Sanford also said he wanted to fight for Franklin to be more safe, and to be a town like it used to be.

“We need to unify the community as one,” he said. “Everyone used to know each other. You would feel comfortable with speaking to anyone you pass. It was a beautiful thing, and I don’t know what happened to it.”

Fixing the situation at the school is three-fold, working to better educate the parents, improving some of the teachers and also providing better after-school programs.

Additionally, Sanford said that Paul D. Camp Community College is an under-utilized resource.

“The government awards grants every day,” he said. “There are grants that could help put young people to work.”

Sanford also wondered if down the road that Franklin could invest in a train system to help transport people to and from the greater Hampton Roads cities.

“Some folks don’t have cars, but they have families or other reasons to visit the city,” he said. “Also, tourism is big as far as dollars, you just need an attraction.”

A better rail system might also attract a business like Fed-Ex or UPS, as far as having a regional hub in the area.

At the end of the day, Sanford said people have encouraged him because they want a change.

“Where is the improvement?” he said. “If you take away the Walmart and the Lowes, we are still in 1962, the year I was born.

“I’m going to continue to fight, and be out there for the people.”