At the end of January, Steve Barnett was selected as the city of Franklin’s new mayor after former Mayor Joe McGuinness was selected by Gov. Eric Holcomb to serve as the new commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Republican precinct committee members voted 14-7 to make Barnett the new mayor, securing the win over former Franklin clerk-treasurer Janet Alexander.
Barnett brings eight years of experience to the position. He worked as a member of the City Council and served as president for five years. He will serve out the remainder of McGuinness’s term through the end of 2019, then will be eligible for re-election.
Barnett said this previous experience has provided a smooth transition into his new role.
“I’ve been on the Council for eight and a half years and five years on the Board of Works, and the Board of Works is right there with the mayor,” Barnett said. “I was pretty much up to speed, and I haven’t really found anything that was surprising.”
Much of Barnett’s focus in office will be on infrastructure projects around Franklin. He said he would like to finish projects in the downtown, as well as the installation of roundabouts and work on south Main Street.
“In the next five years, I would like to spend up to a million a year on repaving streets, not just what we’re doing with the construction, but with middle and overlay on city streets and out in our subdivisions because some of the streets are falling apart,” Barnett said.
In the long term, he’d like to see more work done to make areas around U.S. Route 31 pedestrian-friendly.
“Our long term plan that we’ve already started putting together is once we’re all done out on the east side, and we’re done in the downtown area, we want to go out on 31 where it’s building up with some stores out there,” Barnett said. “We want to make that more traffic-friendly and more pedestrian-friendly.”
As for former Mayor McGuinness, he said his major accomplishments during his five years as mayor were the transformation and development of the Franklin downtown area.
Part of the reason for this development was to strengthen the relationship that the town has with Franklin College, McGuinness’s alma mater.
“I saw there was a possible disconnect between the campus and Franklin, specifically the downtown,” McGuinness said. “So my vision was: Let’s break down that barrier. Let’s create a downtown that’s walkable, that is inviting to outside people. It’s inviting to Franklin College students, professors and staff, and let’s work really on trying to redevelop what we have, and a lot of that was focused on infrastructure.”
McGuinness said his goal was to strengthen the community Franklin possesses.
“I wanted to build a community that my kids, and their friends, and their classmates and the kids that I coached were proud to grow up in,” he said. “So when they went off to college they bragged about Franklin, and when they graduate from college they want to come back to Franklin and make it their forever home.”
As the new commissioner of INDOT, McGuinness’ biggest task is determining what transportation will look like in the future.
“If you look at Governor Holcomb’s pillars, the second one there is: provide a sustainable funding source for our infrastructure for the next 20 years,” he said. “So, what is that going to look like in the next 20 years?”
McGuinness said he will be doing a lot of research with automotive partners to understand the vehicles they’re designing and how these vehicles will effect roads so Indiana roads can be ready for the needs of people 20 years from now.
McGuinness continues to reside in the city of Franklin.