Steve Barnett

Party: Republican

Hometown: Raised in Franklin

Family: Wife Jeannie, two adult children.

Community involvements: Pipefitters Local 157, Elks Lodge 1818, Moose Lodge 17, Friendship Baptist Church

Q&A

What are the top issues facing the city of Franklin? How would you address them?

Top issue is infrastructure projects. Hit ground running already. Will need to hire a new city engineer, and keep all projects on time. Next, is redevelopment of east side. Worked with commissioners to secure Red Carpet Inn property. With growth, will have traffic issues, on U.S. 31, especially. Worked on conceptual drawings for turn lanes and trails. Fire station 21 is in dire need of a makeover or new station. City court needs to be moved. The county needs more room, and asked us to find a new place for the court. Knows of some issues with the location of baseball diamonds, because the park has one way in and out, and concerns from parents that it is unsafe. Is still working toward stormwater projects too. We have several millions in projects already out there, and we have to keep them going to move Franklin to the next level.

What makes you the most qualified candidate for mayor?

Managed his family business for 15 years, and built the business up. When he took over in the mid-80s, had 17 employees. Sold in 2006 to Miller Pipeline and had 75 employees. Has experience with managing people and a budget with millions in projects each year. Been on city council eight-and-a-half years, elected six times as council president, and most recently interim mayor. Has built relationships with partners, schools, college, hospital. Goes to all board meetings to stay up on all issues. Worked with former Mayor Joe McGuinness on projects. Will work to build on what is being done. Has a study on traffic programs going on for future. Have to be thinking five to 10 years ahead.

The city currently is planning or working on millions of dollars of infrastructure projects. How informed are you of the details of those projects? How will you manage them?

Is informed totally and in detail. Knows how to read blueprints. Has met with consultants and city engineer as projects were designed. Has raised questions, helped make changes based on his experience. Has managed similar projects in his job with Miller Pipeline. Has to read blueprints of where utilities go, depths of road construction, meet with contractors.

How should the city continue attracting new businesses? What tools would you use to bring new jobs to Franklin?

What city is doing with infrastructure is a big tool in bringing new jobs. Has talked with new businesses interested in coming to Franklin and existing businesses that want to expand that are excited about infrastructure upgrades. Would continue with incentives, and working with Johnson County Development Corp., Indiana Economic Development Corp., Franklin Redevelopment Commission and Franklin Economic Development Commission.

How can the city be sure to attract quality, high-paying jobs? What is a quality job?

A quality job is like the ones created by B2S Labs, for example, that pay high-end wages. City should try to attract businesses with bigger incentives for jobs that pay above the average county wage. Wants to see Franklin get more of those. Struggles with giving big tax breaks to a company that wants to pay low wages.

Development of the east side near Interstate 65 has been a key focus in recent years, including infrastructure projects to prepare that area for new businesses. What will you do to make those new developments come to fruition?

Is working with developers interested in area. That is a hot area of the city. Will work with redevelopment commission, city council and economic development commission to get right mix of development for area. Wants to talk with residents about what they want there. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Worked with the county to acquire the former Red Carpet Inn property, a key component.

What are the city’s greatest challenges?

Immediate big challenge is infrastructure and getting projects done and being open to others. Said city needs more recreational places for kids. Redeveloping east side. Wants to work on traffic and getting our kids and pedestrians across U.S. 31. Had one death there since been on city council. Drug issues are a problem, and we need to look to add police to help fight drugs. With money invested in downtown, like in the Garment Factory, B2S Labs and former city hall, need to work on getting projects completed. City can take projects so far, then are up to developers to finish.

What is your view of the Indiana Open Door law? Explain to us how you will conduct a transparent government in every way.

Believes in Open Door Law. Does not believe in back room meetings. When developer approaches mayor, wants one redevelopment member with him to discuss what they think before getting a project on the agenda. All city business needs to done in the open. Before McGuinness, city had some issues. The city reorganized the redevelopment commission and Franklin Development Corp.

What programs, projects and departments need more money? What needs less?

Doesn’t see any needing less. Have trimmed about all the fat. City is efficient. Will always be a need for police. City is going to need to look at fire station 21. Would like to expand street department. With redevelopment that increases the assessed value, more funding becomes available without cuts or raising taxes.

Joe McGuinness spent time at the Indiana Statehouse, lobbying legislators, testifying on bills that would affect primarily local government funding and eventually serving on a committee made mostly of state legislators. Would you aim to have the same level of involvement? Why or why not?

Would aim to have that involvement. Staying involved is how you get the funding. Wants to stay involved with those projects. U.S. 31 work will need to go to the state for funding.

How will you determine the best appointments to boards, such as the redevelopment commission, the Franklin Development Corporation and the police merit board. Will you make any immediate changes?

Would not make any immediate changes, has been a part of making those appointments through city council and board of works. Has agreed with mayor’s appointments. For the redevelopment commission, we want people that have advanced business minds. With Franklin Development Corp., wanted excellent business minds that have the desire to focus on betterment of Franklin. Economic development commission members need good business minds to consider tax abatements and come back to the city council with recommendations. All do phenomenal job. Park board focused on making parks better. Fire commission interested in fire department issues. Police merit board needs to be impartial, focus on what is best for city, handle disciplinary actions if needed. Is satisfied with decisions they have made. No desire to make big changes as mayor.

Some of the city’s ongoing initiatives include downtown and special project funding from the Franklin Development Corp., the mayor’s student committee at the high school and the commitment to start a co-working space for downtown Franklin. Are you committed to these projects? Why or why not? What projects would you add or remove?

Not committed to anything. But projects that have been started, he supports. Mayor’s student committee is a good program to learn government, legislation. Supports co-working space, but not the city totally funding the idea. Are other groups that want to be involved, including the chamber of commerce, Franklin Development Corp., Franklin schools, Franklin College, Johnson Memorial Health. For the Franklin Development Corp., wants to continue to see progress, such as with increasing assessed values. Has seen no waste. No administrative costs. All the money is going to the betterment of Franklin. Was against the way the organization was structured before. McGuinness turned it around to make it valued to our city and they collaborate with city, boards, downtown merchants.

How have you campaigned for this position, considering the decision rests with 22 people, many of whom who have ties to city government? For example, the mayor’s former assistant gets to pick the next mayor. A city police officer gets a vote as well. Have you made any commitments or discussed any future positions with those two precinct committee-members or any others?

Was no secret he was going to run for mayor if McGuinness did not run. When this opportunity came, decided now is the time. Reached out to all 22 precinct committee members, and the vice members. Talked about why he is the best person for the job, projects in place, how he can hit the ground running and not miss a beat. Not made any commitments, and no one has asked about any commitments. Trying to sell himself, not negatively talk about opponent. Been to people’s homes, met face to face. Process is different than city-wide election where reach out to all residents and get word out and have more time to knock on doors and build relationships with people.

Currently, the police merit board is preparing for a hearing to consider the termination of a police officer. Should the mayor be involved in those proceedings and decision? Why or why not?

Does not believe mayor should be involved. Mayor and council has appointed people to board. Should put your trust and faith in those people to hear all the evidence and come up with right conclusion.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.