Mayor Joe Collins has decided that he will not seek reelection this fall.
“I've spent 16 years on the board and I think it's just time to take a step back,” said Collins. “I've enjoyed my service over the years, both as an alderman and as mayor of Franklin.”
Collins, a Franklin native is a lawyer by trade who graduated from Franklin High School in 1973 and UNC at Chapel Hill in 1977. Ten years later, he received his law degree from Campbell University's School of Law. In 1997, he was elected to the Town Board of Aldermen and served in that capacity until 2003 when he was elected as mayor.
“I've been doing this for a while now and I think I'm just going to take some time off to spend with my family,” he said. “At the moment, I'm the youngest person on the board and if there comes a time when I want to try it again then I'll still have that option.”
As mayor, Collins only casts a vote when the town board is split evenly, though the mayor leads meetings and discussions and can interject opinions and facts at any moment allowing the position to carry a significant amount of influence regardless of the absence of a consistent vote.
“I'm looking forward to seeing what someone else can do with the position. It's just time for me to watch from the sidelines now.”
One of the pivotal moments in Collins' tenure as mayor came in 2006 when the Board of Aldermen took up the issue of allowing alcohol sales inside the city limits at restaurants. Previously, sales were outlawed and only allowed at “sports clubs,” and the board wanted to give the public a chance to decide whether that was fitting for the town or not. The motion that was made was on whether to allow a referendum to let the people decide at the polls. Once the vote was held, the board found themselves at a split vote of 3-3 and Collins, in a pivotal move for Franklin's future, cast the deciding nod to allow the people to decide.
“We just wanted to give the choice to the people, to allow them a referendum to decide,” said Collins. “Society had evolved and looking back on the issue now, I don't think we've seen an increase in alcohol related incidents and Franklin is a tourism hub. A lot of folks come to town and may want a glass of wine or a beer with their meal. It was just the right time to allow that.”
Collins and his wife, Pam, have no intentions of leaving their home of Franklin, just making a return to life out of the public eye.
“I practice law by trade and I'm going to keep doing that,” he says. “We've got college age kids, too, so I want to devote time to them. I'm just going to enjoy some time away from the office.”
In regards to the future of the town, Collins believes there are high hopes for its outlook and the direction the new town manager will take it in.
“I think the town is going to be fine and I'm looking forward to seeing where Warren takes it. I'm very comfortable with him and his role as manager. He's a quick learner and he's got a reasonable outlook for Franklin.”
Alderman Bob Scott, who has served on the board for 10 years himself, praised Collins for his hard work and dedication to Franklin.
“Joe has accomplished a lot in his service to the town, not only as mayor, but as an alderman,” he said. “I was surprised that he decided not to run again. The town continues to be Western North Carolina's leading municipality in many ways. I wish him the best in his future endeavors and knowing Joe, he will always be putting Franklin's best interest in the forefront. I have no doubt that he will continue serving Franklin and Macon County in some capacity.”
Regarding whether he will run for the vacant seat, Scott was not ready to officially enter the race, but he left the possibility on the table.
“I have been asked by several people if I would run again. and let's just say that I am thinking about it,” said Scott. “I have learned that in public service you never say you will or will not do something without seeking the opinions and advice of those you serve. I have enjoyed being an alderman. I am in my 10th year of service and I hope that I have made some small contributions for the town, its residents and the town's employees.”