Mayor will not seek re-election

Published 11:13 am Saturday, January 23, 2016

The City of Franklin’s first elected black mayor, Raystine Johnson-Ashburn, has announced that she will be not be running for re-election. With that announcement, Ward 6 Councilman Frank Rabil declared his candidacy for the mayoral election.

“I, Mayor Raystine D. Johnson-Ashburn will not seek a third term of office. As I have so announced to the members of the City Council during the last quarter of 2015,” she said in a letter. “It was an incredibly difficult decision, but one that I feel confident about. I have enjoyed serving the citizens of the City of Franklin as Mayor and have been privileged to serve the City as a council member since January 1999. I am most appreciative for the support and encouragement our citizens have given over the year.”

Johnson-Ashburn was elected on May 6, 2012, defeating incumbent Jim Councill, who had served the City in that capacity for 16 years.

Although she was not the first black mayor, she was the first elected black mayor, making the election results historic and important. She received 44 percent of votes from both black voters and white voters because of her politics, and Franklin wanted a moderator to serve as its mayor, someone to help unite the biracial council, rather than split it up.

She won again in the mayoral election in 2014, when she ran unopposed, and received 791 votes.

Throughout Johnson-Ashburn’s time as mayor, she had many successes, one being building and improving relationships with other departments in the City and with neighboring localities.

“During my tenure we have celebrated many successes. I am extremely proud of our partnership with Southampton County and Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc,” she continued in her letter. “I would like to thank Chairman Dallas Jones and the entire Board of Supervisors for the opportunity to explore ways for both localities to become more efficient in serving our citizens. Our work with re-establishing the relationship with FSEDI has been a seamless process thanks, to Amanda Jarratt. The progress we have experienced in the area of economic development is due to good leadership and a committed FSEDI Board of Directors.”

Johnson-Ashburn has also faced challenges during her time as mayor, most significantly the criticism received over her decision to vote for the reappointment of embattled school board chair Edna King.

“She has been a long tenured face on City Council and as mayor for the last three-plus years,” City Manager Randy Martin said. “Her contributions to the City verify the support she has received. I applaud her for her long service. I’ve only had the opportunity to serve with her since 2012, but her presence will certainly be missed, particularly with her experience and level-headed approach with citizens and city issues. I wish her the best. In my position, I work at the pleasure of the City Council and work with whomever the City Council appoints,” City Manager Martin said.

Councilwoman Mary Hilliard, Ward 5 representative added, “That was her decision. I heard her express through someone else that she wasn’t going to run.”

Ending her letter, Johnson-Ashburn said, “Serving as your mayor has been an incredible journey. I have enjoyed working with the dedicated members of the City Council and I wish them well as they continue to serve the citizens of Franklin. Together we have created an atmosphere in our city for continued success and I am very optimistic that Council will continue to move forward. The city is fortunate to have many charismatic, forward thinking and dedicated citizens ready and willing to seek office.”

Concurrent with the mayor’s announcement she would not seek reelection, current Ward 6 Councilman Frank Rabil announced Friday his candidacy for Mayor of the City of Franklin.

“Having learned that Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn will not seek re-election and after thoughtful consideration, support and encouragement from family, friends and citizens throughout the community, I have decided to seek the office of Mayor. I have served on City Council representing Ward 6 for two years, and aspire to serve the city in a different role as Mayor. I consider it a privilege and honor to serve on Council, and I look forward to continuing to serve the city and all of its citizens as Mayor.” Rabil said in a press release.

Rabil is a native of Franklin and his wife of 37 years, Lynne, and himself, both have a deep understanding of the area and its opportunities, as she is too from the area.

He is a retired consultant with Union Camp Corporation/International Paper and has considerable experience in finance, team building, strategic planning and problem solving.

Rabil also has a long history of community and civic involvement in the community. He has served on the Board of Directors of Boys and Girls Club, Bronco Federal Credit Union, Village at Woods Edge, Franklin-Southampton United Way and Jaycees.

He and his wife attend and serve High Street United Methodist Church.