With early voting beginning today, Oct. 17, the League of Women Voters, (LWV) a non-partisan organization that focuses on voter education, voter rights and citizen participation in government and community, held a candidate forum for the Franklin mayoral candidates last Thursday.
Both candidates for Franklin's vacant mayor seat, Sissy Pattillo and Bob Scott, attended the forum and entertained questions from the LWV as well as from the audience.
Tell us about yourself and your background, focusing on aspects most relevant to the office, including what you see as the role of the mayor.
Pattillo, who was born and raised in Franklin, lives in the very house she grew up in. She and her husband, "Coach" Pat Pattillo, have been married for 48 years and have two children, Rocky and Meg, and four grandchildren, Quinton, Madi, Lizzie, and Landon.
A Franklin High School graduate, Pattillo attended the University of Greensboro and Western Carolina University. After receiving her masters degree from WCU, Pattillo began her service in public education, where she worked for 34 years, teaching in Charlotte and Robbinsville as well as Macon County, before retiring.
Completing her second term as a town aldermen, Pattillo said she decided to run for mayor during a pivotal point in the town's future. “When the opportunity came to give back to my community, I threw my hat in the ring,” said Pattillo. “While serving on the town board, I organized the “Together We Can” campaign to clean up the town with local organizations and citizens joining together for a full day of work.”
Pattillo also touted her work with the Main Street Program's Master Plan for town improvements and beautification projects as well as her involvement with citizens. “I worked with our citizens on local, state and neighborhood issues that have directly affected them,” she said. “I have worked with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Duke Energy on projects from beautification to streetlights.”
Commenting on her dedication to economic development in the town, Pattillo informed the audience of how she worked with the county to save Whitley Products, which is now Franklin Tubular Products.
“As I have mentioned before, I have both children and grandchildren living in the town of Franklin, so I have a vested interest here,” Pattillo said of her reason for running for mayor. “As a third generation resident of the town, I understand the importance of remembering our past and embracing our future. If we do not know where we have been, we will not know where we are going.”
According to Pattillo, the role of mayor is to create an atmosphere for the town and to be a leader in creating a positive working environment for the town.
Scott began by introducing his political platform. “I am committed to embracing adversity, open and progressive government and participative leadership so no one feels intimidated by speaking out,” said Scott. I have been here for 46 years and I have had many opportunities to leave but chose to stay because I care for Franklin and Macon County.”
Scott is married to Nancy Siler Scott, whose family roots go back in Macon County to the early 1800s. “Nancy taught school here for 30 years and she served on the Franklin Town Board for 11 years,” said Scott. “Along with Merle Dryman, she started many of the beautification projects in Franklin. So if you vote for me, you will be getting a total of 21 years of elected service to Franklin.”
The couple have two children. “George served three years in the Marine Corps and saw the world,” said Scott. “He and his wife live in Columbia, S.C., and they have two children. Joanna lives in London with her husband Fedrico. Joanna has taught in Germany, the Czech Republic and Japan. She now works in a London library.”
Scott graduated from the Army National Guard’s Officer Candidate School in 1965. He served in the National Guard and the Army Reserve attaining the rank of captain. He received a fellowship to attend the Center for Creative Leadership’s Leadership Development Program and completed the leadership challenge at the FBI’s National Academy. Scott is also a graduate of the Federal Emergency Management Career Development Course. He has completed many anti-terrorism courses and has also taught several of these courses. He holds the North Carolina Training and Standards Commission’s Advanced Law Enforcement Training Certificate.
“I do not believe leaders are born. I believe they are made,” Scott said of his qualifications for government.
Scott believes the role of mayor is to foster an environment for town employees to be able to operate in. “I learned years ago that the best trait of a leader is that sometimes it is best to get out of the way and let the people you are leading take over while helping them to develop their ideas,” said Scott. “As mayor, my job is not to be a manager but to make sure the town employees have the tools they need to do their job and for me to support them. Leadership and management must go hand in hand although they are not the same thing.
The town manager’s job is to plan, organize, coordinate and carry out the policies set by the mayor and board. The mayor’s job is not to tell the town employees what and how to do their jobs. The mayor’s job is to inspire and motivate.”
Tell us what you see as the role of town government. Highlight the issues and programs that are most significant to you. What would you like to see accomplished while mayor and how are you qualified to do that.
Pattillo said she believes that town government is “the engine that pulls the train.”
Highlighting the three programs and initiatives most important to her, Pattillo spoke to the Main Street Program, the Streets and Sidewalks Initiative and Soil and Water.
“We have one of the largest [Main Street] districts in the state, as we wanted all of our businesses included,” said Pattillo. “The Main Street Program has opened many doors for us.”
Pattillo spoke to the Main Street program's Master Plan to remodel Franklin's Main Street to be able to better apply for state grants to provide funding to host programs such as red carpet events, and improvement programs such as the hanging flower baskets.
The Streets and Sidewalks Initiative is a program that rates all of Franklin streets and sidewalks based on repair needs. Pattillo explained the rating system allows the town to decide which areas of the town need which repairs and to stack the projects based on a level of need. “With this system in place, we hope to make significant improvements to our town streets and sidewalks,” she said.
“We have just completed renovations to our sewer plant,” Pattillo said of her interest in the town's soil and water program.
According to Pattillo, the renovations have improved the capacity and quality of the town's sewer system. She also spoke to the future need to improve the town's water system. “Right now the state allocates Franklin three million gallons of water a day, but we can only process two million gallons,” she said. “Our daily average is 1.1 million. We have water. Cartoogechaye Creek is our source, this [supply] is not our problem.”
Pattillo explained that the quality of water and the need for a more efficient treatment plant as being what the town should focus on regarding Franklin's water system. “I have been shaped by seeing some awful things,” said Scott. “I’ve seen abject poverty, starving children, and the struggle for civil rights. I’ve been in countries where the people were repressed by brutality, and women were treated as second class citizens. I have fought for women’s rights. I worked on grants to fund Macon County’s domestic violence law enforcement units, I hired the first full-time female Emergency Medical Technicians for the county’s EMS, and I have served on the REACH Board of Directors for years. I am an active member of the League of Women Voters.”
If elected to Mayor, Pattillo said she would want to see more collaboration between all stake holders to improve the town of Franklin. “Collaboration is the key.”
Scott spoke to the importance of open government. “I have proposed that all minutes of closed meetings be opened to the public after the reason for secrecy has passed,” he said.
Scott said if elected to mayor, one thing he wants to see changed is allowing everyone a voice in town government. “I make a couple of promises I will try to keep,” he said. “I will defend civil liberties, ensure that the town government remains open and that everyone, regardless of race, sex, or socioeconomic class will have a say in town business. As your mayor, I will listen. Everywhere I go I hear people say, I own a business in Franklin but I cannot vote. I pay taxes. I agree this doesn’t sound fair but that’s the way it is. So I propose that one night a month we will have a Town Hall style meeting where anyone can come in and talk about the business of the town without the five minute public comment period we have now. You may not have a vote, but I will give you a voice. I plan to be available to talk with anyone whenever it is convenient for the person wanting to talk.”
Scott also noted that the town's water system faces problems due to storm runoff and an outdated treatment system, but overall believes the water and sewer is being adequately managed.
Town voters will soon decide who will sit on the next town board and who Franklin’s next mayor will be. “We definitely need to be looking at a second and much larger water source,” said Scott. “I believe the confluence of the Cullasaja and the Little Tennessee River may well be the answer while keeping the old water treatment plant as a back up. No town can ignore its water, sewer, streets, police and fire services. To do so is to create a town unattractive for anybody.”
Scott also hopes to see the town continue working with the county for economic advancements in the town. “The role of town government in economic development should be in conjunction with the county, state and federal economic organizations,” he said. “The only way we can prosper is through cooperation of all parties including potential businesses and industry.”
In addition to the seat of mayor, three town aldermen seats are up for grabs this election.
Important voting information
For more information, contact the Macon County Board of Elections, (828)349-2034.