Ward 5 candidates bring experience, change

Published 11:52 am Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ward 5, Mary Hilliard

Mary Hilliard greets ward 5’s Vera Ricks. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Mary Hilliard greets ward 5’s Vera Ricks. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—For more than 26 years, Mary Hilliard has served on the Franklin City Council. She says that now, more than ever, the city could use experience ahead of inexperience.

“I believe the city is in a very tender period with the slowing of the economy,” she said. “I believe my experience will be an asset. Inexperience will hurt us.

“I am a team player, with a proven track record.”

The ward 5 incumbent is seeking reelection, and her platform is threefold: the economy, education and continued partnership with the county.

Regarding the economy, she’s interested in seeking a more diverse one.

“With IP, we kind of had all of our eggs in one basket,” she said. “Of course, we would not turn away any big businesses. But we have to seek out more smaller businesses.”

Hilliard said an aspect of education that would be beneficial to the system would be more career technical support.

The savings from the partnership with the county have not been seen yet, Hilliard acknowledged, but she said it would in the next budget cycle.

“The savings will be there,” she said.

Unemployment, education and teen pregnancy are the biggest problems facing the city at the moment. More parental involvement is an aspect that can help the later two, but also unemployment, as the students who graduate would be better equipped to work.

“It is hard to get parents to be involved when it comes to the schools,” Hilliard said. “They may go to a football game, but when it comes to supporting their education through an early start, that’s going kind of slow.

“I would talk with many parents, and I do, in church. It has helped some.”

Hilliard said she has a great interest in Franklin — she went to school here and her daughter also graduated from Franklin High School. She worked at the St. Regis Paper Company until they shut down and was a representative of the union.

The calling came to her to become a member of council in 1988 when the city switched to the ward system.

“I thought and prayed about it, and you know the rest,” she said. “I’d like to thank the citizens of Franklin for having the faith in me.”

Hilliard said she should be elected because she loves the city and she is a true servant for the people.

“I receive calls, I get stopped on the street, in church, anywhere, and I will always listen and hear,” she said. “And I will also get them an answer if I cannot answer their question.

“I know my opponent is running on change. But I ask you, why take that risk? It is better to have a proven track record than change and inexperience.”

Due to an ever-changing economy nationally and locally, she’s seen a lot of ups and downs. Right now, Hilliard said, Franklin is a down, but it’s on its way back up.

“It will take a team player with a proven track record to help Franklin out of this down period.”

Ward 5, Ricky Sykes

Ricky Sykes speaks with Victoria Edmonds of ward 5. -- Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Ricky Sykes speaks with Victoria Edmonds of ward 5. — Cain Madden | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—Ricky Sykes said what the city needs right now is new ideas and new energy.

Armed with a platform standing for jobs, education and recreation, Sykes is running for the ward 5 seat on the Franklin City Council.

“I’ve always taken an interest in the city,” he said. “Even when my kids were not participating in the Parks and Recreation programs, I would be out there coaching. I see it as doing my civic duty to help and mentor kids.

“I’m trying to make the city better and do what is right for the city and the citizens.”

Sykes graduated from Franklin High School, and he and his wife have been running a business for 10 years, Joihaven LLC, a residential group for people with intellectual disabilities. He’s also volunteered for the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

Regarding jobs, Sykes wants to work closer with city council and FSEDI to create incentives for businesses.

Sykes said he can’t solve the educational problems by himself, but he does feel that council could player a bigger part.

“We need to look at the budget, and if they need more money from us, we need to make that happen,” he said.

It’s not all about money, though, as Sykes said it started at home.

“I think a lot of the parents may not even be aware that the schools and their kids are having problems,” he said. “We need to do a better job of parent outreach.”

Recreation is also important because it gives the children something to do after school.

“You need to have the right program to draw their interest to keep them off the streets and getting into things they may not should be getting into,” he said. “We also need to find some more programs for seniors.”

When asked what the single biggest issue is, Sykes said from conversations with citizens, it’s the utility bills.

“If Franklin does not have the money for the utilities, I can understand that,” he said. “But we need to really look at the budget and see what is going on. There might be other things we can cut, so that the people are not faced with rising bills.

“There needs to be more transparency, too, so that people know why this is happening.”

After working on the campaigns for Del. Roslyn Tyler, President Barack Obama and Gov. McAuliffe, people of his ward told Sykes that he ought to consider running.

“They said, ‘We need a change. We need a choice.’ I talked to my wife, and she told me to go for it, that I wasn’t getting any younger,” he added with a laugh.

“As far as the changes I hope to bring, one thing is I want to see more transparency between the city and the people.

“I want to help bring in jobs. I want to help make our school system better. And I want to bring in better programs for the kids with parks and recreation. I’ve got the energy and desire to help people.”