Name: Jim Higdon
Family: Wife, Mary Pat, two grown children, two grandchildren
Occupation: Retired as director of the Johnson County Juvenile Detention Center
Education: Graduated Greenwood Community High School, attended IUPUI
Memberships: Johnson County Sheriff’s Office merit board, St. Rose of Lima Church, coaches basketball at Whiteland Community High School
What are the top issues facing the city of Franklin? How would you address them?
Road projects are big issues. Tax base is big issue. Doing some things with schools and police, bicycle patrolling, those are good ideas. Franklin changing roads, buildings, entrances into city, all have been started and need to keep them going.
What makes you the most qualified candidate for city council?
Has government background with 35 years in county government as a probation officer and juvenile detention director. Had to do a budget every year. Knows that process. Knows a lot of people, and has been living in community a long time. People like to ask me questions, want me to get them answers. Worked with schools, police departments, coaching Little League, and has met a lot of people. That will help him be a better council member.
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 as a council member manage them?
Has not talked with current council or past mayor about what is going on. Has seen the work going on, such as on East King Street, near Interstate 65, which is good. As a council member, would get into more details, finding out what is going on, etc. Everything on mayor’s list is good for the city. Hopefully as council member, would get more information to be able to make knowledgeable vote.
How should the city continue attracting new businesses? What tools would you use to bring new jobs to Franklin?
Biggest issue would be taxes. Wants to know more about tax abatement and how it works. What he has seen in other situations, seems to work out well, as long as you hold businesses accountable for the promises they make. Wants to make sure whatever contract signed for employment, number of years and amount of money, that they fulfill promises. And if they don’t, there should be a penalty. Has seen other businesses go under and not fulfill obligations to the city. Need to take care of those up front. Was concerned as taxpayer in past. Would hold company accountable. There is room for more businesses in Franklin and more building. Wants to help in that relationship.
How can the city be sure to attract quality, high-paying jobs? What is a quality job? What new developments should receive a tax abatement, and which, if any, shouldn’t? What metrics would you use to make the decision?
If a city can attract good people and good businesses and the word gets out that the city is upholding their part, with tax abatement, etc., other companies will look at that and see Franklin as a good opportunity. Any type of job nowadays is a quality job. Just getting people employed is a good thing. There are people looking for work. Want quality job with good wages, benefits and to attract people from around the county to spend money for food, etc. in Franklin. As a taxpayer, have read about incentives and agreements and wonder why one gets money and others don’t. People bringing quality jobs and honoring their commitment to city, that would be a big issue to me. Would want to sit down with people, ask a lot of questions — how many will they hire, wages, insurance, future plans for expansion. Would want to try to avoid companies leaving, not fulfilling their end of the agreement. Money spent and lost on the companies that leave would help other local governments get what they need.
What are the city’s greatest challenges?
One is roads. That is a big challenge. Mayor wants $1 million more to help with road work. Like to see continued good cooperation with schools and police. Bringing in more businesses is a big issue. Can help with employment, bring in tax money down the road.
What programs, projects and departments need more money? What needs less?
No one says they need less. Grew up in a police family. Has a soft spot for police. Worked in probation and detention. Police always need money. They put their lives on the line. Deserve to be paid as well as other departments in the area that get paid better than Franklin. Street department needs money to work on roads. Parks department getting bigger and needs more money. Can’t think of anyone who needs less money. Need to get into departments and budgets, to know more about what is needed.
How will you determine the best appointments to boards, such as the redevelopment commission, the Franklin Development Corp. and the police merit board?
Would want to put people on boards with knowledge of what they will be doing. Knowledge of people who want to be appointed, resumes, would be a big issue with me. Currently serves on sheriff merit board. Would want someone who has some police knowledge and understanding. Someone with a good reputation. On my board, having that knowledge helps me to understand what needs to be done.
The appointed redevelopment commission spends millions of dollars each year on business incentives and special projects. Should any TIF districts be ended? Should any property tax money be returned to the schools or libraries for those boards to determine how to spend the money?
That is an issue that without knowing who gets the money, would need to sit down and go through all the programs and projects that receive money. Look at downtown, see the improvements made, how the money has been used. It is a great situation. Wants to make sure money is being used in right way. If not, would want to get that money back and give to schools. Have to wait until in office, find out where money is, who gets it and make decisions from there.