Franklin would bring fresh ideas to commission

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   Benny R. Franklin, Democrat candidate for commissioner in the 5th District, said that about a year ago, he had a desire "to avail myself as a public servant" for his district.
   Franklin said he believes that if elected, as a newcomer he could bring some fresh ideas to the commission, which he thinks could be helpful.
   Like most candidates for county commission, Franklin said, "Industry is definitely the No. 1 issue, and recruiting companies to come to Elizabethton and Carter County, if at all possible, to bring some more jobs to the citizens. No doubt, the job market in the county has taken a nose dive."
   Franklin said he understands that zoning is something of a controversial issue. "Some people in the county are for it and some people in the county, I understand, are not for it. I'm well aware of that."
   But when Franklin thinks about zoning, he said, he pictures keeping businesses "that might be detrimental to young children" from locating in specific areas.
   "I don't think you would want adult entertainment or a beer store close by a church or even where a lot of children would be involved in a playground or day care. What comes to my mind is to try to avoid that."
   Franklin said he believes that with the right person, the hiring of a county finance director could be an asset for better efficiency.
   "From what I understand, there's money budgeted for that position, though it may be put on hold for the moment. But whoever gets the county executive job, I'm sure that would be a help to that individual and the county overall. That way the county executive wouldn't have to be focused on that as much as he would his other duties. He can only be spread so far," Franklin said.
   When asked what changes in methods he would use to bring industry to Carter County, Franklin said, "I'm not sure what methods they're using at the moment. If I knew that, I might be able to respond a little better.
   "Certainly, I'm sure the people [in charge of] economic development have been contacting different companies around the region and maybe outside the region. It would be helpful to go visit the companies and explain to them what Carter County has to offer.
   "I guess that would be a start. Maybe some of that is going on. If it is, maybe it needs to be stepped up a little bit," he said.
   Franklin said one of his goals for his area of Pinecrest, Happy Valley and Milligan would be to replace the modular units used for kindergarten classes at Happy Valley Elementary and to have the kindergarten attached to the main building as part of "a more upgraded classroom. Of course, that takes money."
   Also, he said, "I would like to see the school teachers and the deputy sheriffs -- those that have favorable evaluations -- receive regular pay increases.
   "Of course all of this is a wish list," he said, and it all would depend on revenue, "something everyone is trying to get."
   Franklin said he would like to find "appropriate revenue without putting the property owners at a big tax hike. I think the property owners have been called on quite a bit to bear the burden. But that's something you can't promise -- that they'll never be raised -- but I would try to avoid it if I could," he said.
   Franklin, 51, is married, with an eight-year-old son who attends Happy Valley Elementary. The Air Force veteran, who served during the Vietnam era, works as a probation officer with Juvenile Court of Johnson City. He graduated from East Tennessee State University and attends the Church of Hosanna Fellowship in Gray.