Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness is stepping down from his elected position to lead the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Gov.-elect Eric Holcomb announced on Thursday that he has tapped McGuinness as commissioner of the state agency that oversees the transportation system, including 11,000 miles of roads and 6,000 bridges across the state.

McGuinness, a Republican in his second term as mayor, has been heavily involved in advocating for permanent increased road funding for local governments at the statehouse and is on a committee, comprised of mostly legislators, that has been reviewing funding options and priorities. As mayor, he negotiated with INDOT to have State Road 44/Jefferson Street turned over to the city and secured nearly $13 million from the state for rebuilding and maintaining the road.

He’s also worked to develop the city’s downtown and rebuild the eastside gateway into Franklin.

He begins his new job on Monday, when he and other newly elected and appointed officials are sworn in. At INDOT, McGuinness will oversee an annual budget that tops $1.8 billion dollars this year and will manage 3,500 employees. He and his family will continue to live in Franklin.

County Republican leaders will begin organizing to conduct a caucus to replace McGuinness, whose term expires at the end of 2019. The next mayor will be selected by Republican precinct committee members, and residents who are interested in the job will be able to apply. The caucus will be conducted within 30 days of the mayor’s resignation.

McGuinness said the decision to resign as mayor was difficult and that he did not seek the job, but considered it carefully.

“To see the transformation our people have put in place over the last five years has been awesome,” McGuinness said.

He is committed to staying active in the community and assisting the city council and the new mayor however needed.

He hopes to mimic the progress of Franklin, just on a much larger scale, in terms of vision, the work environment and progress. His goal is to tie the state’s infrastructure development to economic growth.

“How can we ask companies to invest $15 or $16 million if we can’t invest in our own infrastructure?” McGuinness said.

He’s excited to help find solutions to sustainable long-term road funding and said that legislators beginning work this week are committed to finding a fix.

Franklin is losing a progressive, forward-thinking mayor who took on big projects for the betterment of the city, said Jeff Colvin, vice chairman of the county’s Republican party.

Franklin City Council President Steve Barnett said the city council will meet on Monday to select the council president for the coming year, and that person will serve as the interim mayor until the caucus is conducted. Barnett also intends to be a candidate for mayor in the caucus.

The challenge for the next mayor will be finishing the infrastructure projects during the next four years, and maintaining and attracting jobs, and serving as the CEO of the city, Barnett said.

“I believe Joe has done a lot of good for our city, and I feel good about being able to work beside him on the board of works, and planning our infrastructure projects, and working with the state on redoing our downtown,” Barnett said. “I’m really comfortable with how Joe has ran the city and got us stepped up to the next notch.”

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Michele Holtkamp is editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mholtkamp@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2774.