Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness is stepping down from his elected position to lead the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Gov.-elect Eric Holcomb announced Thursday that he has selected 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.
“Joe is no stranger to public service, and I believe his leadership and local government experience will be a great asset to every Hoosier,” Holcomb said. “I look forward to the active role he will play in preserving what we have, finishing what we started and investing in the future of Indiana’s roads and bridges, solidifying Indiana’s place as the Crossroads of America.”
The governor-elect made the announcement at the Indiana Statehouse as he unveiled his priorities for the upcoming legislative session and his time in office.
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“What we’re here to do is provide great government service at great taxpayer value,” Holcomb said. “He’ll hit the ground running on Day 1,” he said of McGuinness.
The Johnson County native and Franklin College graduate will lead the third or fourth largest state agency with a budget of $1.8 billion and 3,500 employees.
He’ll be tasked with managing upcoming decisions on the precise route of the new Interstate 69 through Johnson County and will be involved in a statewide and legislative debate about a proposed gas tax increase.
The appointment is in many ways a loss for the county and Franklin, but also a gain for the communities to have a local resident who understands the challenges facing cities, towns and counties in a top state job, said Beth Boyce, the county Republican Party chairwoman.
“Right now is such a pivotal time,” Boyce said.
McGuinness, a Republican in his second term as mayor, has been heavily involved in advocating for permanent increased road funding for local governments 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, a project that is underway now.
He begins his new job Monday, when he and other newly elected and appointed officials are sworn in. At INDOT, McGuinness will have an executive cabinet that consists of deputy commissioners, a chief of staff, engineering and operations managers, legal and finance experts and six regional districts across the state. 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. Thursday was an emotional day for McGuinness as he gathered city leaders together to give them the news, then gathered with state leaders and the new governor.
He is committed to staying active in the community and assisting the city council and the new mayor however needed. Besides the infrastructure improvements in the city, McGuinness is most proud of the overhaul of the Franklin Development Corp., a taxpayer-funded non-profit organization that has funded major redevelopment projects. His administration replaced board members, removed the salaried executive director position and clarified the board’s role in the community.
He hopes to mimic the progress of Franklin at the Statehouse, 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 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.”
Family: Wife Anne McGuinness, two children
Current job: Mayor of Franklin since 2012
Appointment: Will be sworn in as commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation on Monday
Education: Center Grove High School and Franklin College graduate
Indiana Department of Transportation
Budget: $1.8 billion in 2017
Function: Oversees 11,000 miles of state-owned roads, all bridges, interstates and rail lines
Caucus to name a new Franklin mayor
What happens next: Mayor Joe McGuinness must resign in writing to county Republican Party chairwoman Beth Boyce.
That will trigger a 30-day process to replace him.
The next mayor will be selected by more than 20 Franklin precinct committee members.
Franklin residents who want to nominate themselves to serve as mayor have until 72 hours before the caucus to submit their letter in writing to Boyce. Letters should be sent to 845 Richart Lane, Greenwood, IN, 46142.
The date, time and location of the caucus will be set after McGuinness resigns.