Two candidates are vying for the Franklin Township seat on the Franklin Union Needham Township Board.
The township board in the state’s first merged township is composed of a member from each of the townships. The township board advises the township trustee on budgetary matters and helps execute the township government duties including providing aid to the indigent, fire protection and cemetery maintenance.
The seat for Franklin Township is currently held by Jeannie Barnett, who was chosen by the former Franklin township board to represent the township on the merged board. Barnett, a Republican, is challenged by Democrat Michelle Waugh Dahl.
Each seat on the three-member FUN township board is opposed this year, with one Democrat and one Republican in each race.
The Daily Journal emailed questions to each township board candidate about their experience and goals for the office. With some edits for grammar and formatting, here are the responses we received from Franklin Township candidates:
What drew you to run for this office?
Barnett: I want to give back to the community grew up in and help those in need.
Waugh Dahl: Working with food insecure folx in Franklin, Johnson County, and surrounding areas since February 2017, it was evident in the intersecting systems of housing and transportation, living sustainably is almost impossible. Although a food pantry is but a Band-Aid in the big picture of these issues, it has been in listening, building relationships and earning the trust of community members that the needle has pointed toward progress. As the elected FUN Township Trustee Board – Franklin member, being able to oversee the trustee’s office is an organic next step in assisting my community.
What qualifications do you have for this office?
Barnett: I have been on this board for the last four years. As exalted ruler at our local Elks, and in charge of the charitable work that they do, I realized there was more assistance needed in our community. This experience helped me in knowing how to assist others in getting the resources they need.
Waugh Dahl: I am a seasoned non-profit community advocate for the marginalized; fighting for racial, social, and economic equity and justice by impelling political and systemic change in Johnson County. I am experienced in grant writing, expanding community outreach, mentoring and establishing aspiring non-profit organizations, and collaborating with businesses and organizations to better our community
What, to you, are the most important duties of this office?
Barnett: Firstly, provide and approve a budget that the trustee has to make a meaningful difference for our community. Secondly, assisting the trustee in providing temporary housing, food and clothing to those in need.
Waugh Dahl: The most important duties of this office are to provide accessible, equitable, and judgment-free resources with the same treatment to all residents of our townships that will help to lead to sustainable living.
What are the most pressing issues facing the township, if there are any?
Barnett: With the way the economy is headed, getting all the assistance to the families that will be needing help.
Waugh Dahl: Being open to new ideas; recognizing and accepting poverty as a system is the only way to effect change. I would strive to help bring: attainable and affordable housing, more public transportation and fast, reliable Wi-Fi access, especially since so many folx now work from home.
What are your top three priorities and how will you execute those?
Barnett: I would prioritize more utility and rent assistance to help keep more people in their current homes; growing the Payee Assistance Program for those who receive Social Security or Disability in the management of their funds; now that the township has merged with Union and Needham Townships, reaching out and helping more citizens in need and starting the restoration of the three cemeteries the township assumed responsibility of in the merger.
Waugh Dahl: My priorities would be building relationships and trust through active listening and information gathering; adjusting perception about people utilizing trustee resources; and seeking solutions to affordable and attainable housing.
Do you think people are aware of township services? Do you have any ideas to raise awareness?
Barnett: I do believe people are aware of our services because of us working with organizations like United Way, KIC-IT and food pantries. We also work closely with our local police and fire departments. We can increase awareness by putting more flyers in local businesses, libraries and other organizations that provide assistance, reaching out to the local newspaper and using social media.
Waugh Dahl: From the work that I have done for almost six years, it has been astounding how many folx do not know that the trustee’s office even exists. In order to best assist folx, we need to meet them where they are. Building relationships on a grassroots level and trust, opening the door to better communication and awareness for our community as a whole. The trustee’s office meets folx when they are in a crisis situation. It is just as important to build a foundation with community members to create a safety network to prevent crises.
What else would you like to say to voters?
Barnett: I have four years of experience on this board. I would love the opportunity to continue my work on the board to help provide assistance to our community. Please go out and vote, your vote matters.
Waugh Dahl: Things can be better. Not all things have to be done the way they have always been done. By voting for me, you are guaranteed a fresh face with fresh and responsible ideas from a diverse experience. We all deserve a better tomorrow.
The Barnett File
Name: Jeannie Barnett
Family: Husband Steve; two children
Occupation: Payroll and billing, Miller Pipeline
Educational background: Franklin Community High School
Political experience: Franklin Township Board
Memberships: Franklin Elks Lodge #1818, past exalted ruler; American Legion #205.
The Waugh Dahl File
Name: Michelle Waugh Dahl
Family: Partner Michael Hooker; five children
Occupation: Founder, Michelle’s Little Free Pantry, Inc.
Educational background: Roncalli High School; some college
Political experience: precinct committee person, state convention delegate
Memberships: Trinity Haven, board member; Hoosier Women Forward, alumnae committee, AAPI Pride Gala, director; Hoosier Women Forward, alumna; Indy Maven, operations and editorial boards; (Greenwood) Pride & Progress, Inc., secretary; Leadership Johnson County, alumna.