A challenger and an incumbent running for a township trustee position both want to make residents more aware of the help they can get from the office.
Lydia Wales faces Cecelia Campbell in the primary race for the Republican nomination for Franklin township trustee. Campbell has been the trustee for 27 years, and Wales is a political newcomer.
Elected trustees are responsible for assisting residents in their township who need help paying for housing or utilities. They also ensure cemeteries are mowed, cleaned and properly landscaped, contract with fire departments to offer fire protection to the township and ensure weeds aren’t spreading into fields, lawns and gardens.
Johnson County has nine townships, and a trustee for each is elected by the voters. Franklin Township is the third-largest in the county, with a population of 20,685.
The Franklin Township trustee has an office at 150 W. Jefferson St. in Franklin and oversees a budget of about $380,000, which is mostly funded with property taxes from township properties.
Campbell said she believes that her compassion for others and her experience providing financial aid to residents who need help paying their bills qualify her to continue holding the office.
Residents in Franklin township who have suffered abuse or lost their job need to be able to work with someone who can connect them with all of the available resources in the township and throughout the county, Campbell said.
Wales spent 26 years working for a bankruptcy attorney before he ended his practice in December and now works for the Eggers and Woods law firm in Franklin. Working with residents having financial problems has helped prepare her for the trustee position because she knows about the challenges those residents face, she said.
If elected, Wales wants to be sure that more area residents know about the kinds of assistance they can get through the trustee’s office, including referrals to area food pantries and tax dollars to help pay some of their bills.
The trustee’s office also needs to spend more time finding ways to assist homeless students, Wales said. Earlier this year, Franklin schools reported having 208 students without a permanent place to live, up from 178 in September. School officials and local nonprofits have been helping families who are trying to afford their rent, and Wales wants to help those groups find solutions for those parents.
“To me, that’s our future, the kids. If they’re out there and they’re struggling, maybe they need guidance and help, something to help them move along and become established citizens,” Wales said.