Barnett will seek another term as Franklin mayor

Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett plans to seek another term in the 2023 municipal election. He says there are too many big projects going on to step away just yet.

Barnett, a Republican, first won a caucus in late January 2017 to replace former mayor Joe McGuinness. In 2019, he was elected by Franklin voters to continue as mayor.

So far, no one else has announced an intent to run publicly in 2023. Barnett was the only candidate in the last mayoral race in 2019.

With the announcement, Barnett wants to squash rumors he might seek a state or federal office. He’s content being mayor of his hometown, he said.

“This is the last political job I will ever have ..,” Barnett said. “When I’m done being the mayor I want to be able to go home and look in the mirror and say ‘I worked every single day as hard as I could to make Franklin a good place to live, work and play.’ I want to have no regrets.”

Before becoming mayor, Barnett served on the city council from 2008 until he resigned his seat following the mayoral caucus victory in 2017. He also served on the city’s board of public works and safety for five years. Along with his political experience, he brings to the office 30 years of managing construction projects for Miller Pipeline, and before that his family’s business, he said.

As a lifelong Franklin resident, Barnett said he’s seen many ups and downs. It was during the period when the city was in possibly the biggest crisis it has ever faced – the 2008 flood – that he first joined the city government as a city council member. At that time, he joined a team of people who were determined to, again, make Franklin a destination.

Since then, Franklin has seen a boom of business and commercial growth and big city investments in quality of life. With that growth, housing developers have been approved to build over 1,300 new homes and several new apartment complexes in the city.

Though he is, by no means, fully responsible for Franklin’s new renaissance, Barnett said he wants to help his hometown grow even more in the coming years.

“I think we’ve accomplished a lot. A lot of times the mayor gets all the credit, but it takes a big army of people to make this happen,” Barnett said. “It is not just one person.”

When he was first elected in 2017, Barnett told the Daily Journal he wanted to be “a mayor who gets things done.” All of the projects he first told the Daily Journal he wanted to work on are either complete or are set in motion.

Projects that are set in motion but not completed are the Yandes Street project, which will begin construction this year, and the Franklin Fire Station 21 remodel, which is now in the design process.

“We’ve been leading the city on this journey to excellence and we made a lot of good progress. We’ve got a lot of good projects that have been completed. There’s future projects we would like to see to the end,” Barnett said. “We feel like we have a lot of momentum, we have a good staff. I want to lead for another four years.”

The No. 1 thing Barnett wants to see through to the end is the Amphenol/Franklin Power Products site clean-up, he said. If the project stays on the expected schedule, the contamination could be completely remediated in five years, Environmental Protection Agency officials said at a public hearing last week.

Other priorities are seeing through road projects, hiring more police officers and emergency medical personnel, and completing quality of life projects.

Chief among the road projects Barnett is looking forward to seeing through are the Yandes Street project and a major update of U.S. 31. The Yandes Street project will preserve the historic brick street for future generations, while the U.S. 31 project will involve both upgrading the road and adding five miles of trail along its path through Franklin. The U.S. 31 trail will connect the city’s retail strip to downtown to increase connectivity.

Additional goals going forward are to attract companies that offer high wages and good quality housing that is affordable for a wide range of people who want to live and work in Franklin.

Though he believes in term limits, Barnett feels strongly that he should be the one to see through these projects. Along with the city council and city employees, he wants to continue to move Franklin forward.

“I do believe there is a time that you should step back and let someone with fresh eyes look at it, but this is not the time,” he said.

Another thing he wants to keep managing is the city’s growth, which he calls “controlled” and “responsible” during his administration. However, critics have questioned if Franklin is growing too much and said they’re afraid the city is losing its “small-town charm.”

For Barnett, the charm is still there and it lies with the revitalized downtown. That charm will be reinforced by future quality of life projects like the U.S. 31 trail, he said.

“We’ve added that downtown-hometown feel with the festivals and the opening of the amphitheater, the park, the pickleball courts, the whole thing should help keep our downtown core area going,” Barnett said. “This is our hometown feel.”