Archived Story

Up close and personal: Franklin mayor, native enjoys working with citizens

Published 11:42am Saturday, May 4, 2013

BY MERLE MONAHAN/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
merlemonah@aol.com

Raystine Johnson-Ashburn
Raystine Johnson-Ashburn

FRANKLIN—Franklin Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn says she has always been concerned about the overall operations of city government, but never thought about running for office until a group of citizens urged her to consider seeking the seat on Franklin City Council vacated by the death of Robert Harrell.

“I was hesitant at first,” she said, “but thought it over and ultimately decided that maybe I could help make a difference.”

Johnson-Ashburn was appointed to the seat on council in 1999. Since then, she has been reelected each term until 2012, when she ran for and was elected mayor.

The new mayor says she made the right decision when she entered politics. “I enjoy working with our citizens and experiencing the day-to-day activities of our government.

“Sometimes, it’s a challenge — but that’s true in everything you do.”

Born and raised in Franklin, Raystine Johnson-Ashburn is the only child of R. T. H. Johnson, Sr. and Ruth E. Johnson. She attended Franklin City schools and graduated from Franklin High School in 1977.

She obviously is well qualified to work with the public. Since the death of her father in 2002, she has operated his business, William M. Johnson and Sons Funeral Home on Main Street on her own, with just the help of her staff. She began her internship working with her father there in the early 1980s, receiving her license as a funeral director in 1982, so she was able to take over.

The young businesswoman, who attended Hampton University had also studied business management and her director’s license includes both funeral directing and embalming.

She reflected on the death of her father for a moment. “He loved this city and his business here.

“But when we were flooded during the hurricane of 1999, it took so much out of him. I don’t think he ever recovered from it.”

“But I am so fortunate and so appreciative that my father’s clients still want me to serve them,” she added.

As for her position as mayor, she is concerned about all operations of city government, she said.

“One thing I’d like is to get the city back to a city manager-run city, where the city manager takes care of the day-to-day operations.”

She continued, “Randy (Martin) has been here about a year and is doing a great job. That’s the way it should be.”

She brought up citizens’ recent concerns over rising electricity bills, some of whom Martin has been working with.

“The council and I work as a team and we all care about this issue. We have offered to work with each and every resident who has a problem. We will continue to recheck the meters, along with other things connected and with this issue. If there’s a problem there on our part, of course we’ll take care of it.”

“We realize the economy is suffering and some of our residents are living under a hardship,” she went on. “If there are avenues the resident can take to help the situation and we’re aware of them, certainly we’ll suggest this.”

The mayor said she is excited about the progress council has made in working with the county.

“The county appointed an efficiency committee consisting of Mike Johnson, County Administrator, Ronnie West and Barry Porter, County Supervisors, along with myself, our vice mayor, Barry Cheatham and our city manager, Randy Martin, to help develop ways to bring more development into the region,” she said.

“This partnership is working very well and we plan to continue it.”

Another concern of council includes issues including funding sources, facing the school system. She said the city is looking at ways to enhance communications with the school board.

“We’ve had joint meetings to see how the system works in regard to what part council plays in the system.

“Council appoints school board members and is a funding source,” she said.

“We must continue to have better communications. Dialog is important.”

Johnson-Ashburn’s jobs keep her busy, but she enjoys the challenges, she says.

She knows the funeral business, of course, but as mayor, there are new experiences every day. She says, “I like that.”

NAME: Raystine Johnson-Ashburn

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS AREA: I was born here.

HOMETOWN: Franklin.

OCCUPATION: Funeral Service Licensee.

MARITAL STATUS: Married to Charlie Ashburn Jr. in July 2012

CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND AGES: My husband has three children, Chris, Matthew and Kieoni, all grown with their own families.

FAVORITE NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN: My husband and I enjoy going out to dinner and a movie.

FAVORITE RESTAURANT: I don’t really have a favorite. My husband and I frequent all of the local restaurants.

FAVORITE MEAL AND BEVERAGE: Prime rib, a salad and diet beverage.

WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU: I love comedy. Standup is my favorite.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOURSELF: I care about everyone I meet.

WHAT IS YOUR WORST HABIT: Procrastination.

PETS: None. Sadly, my Yorkie, “Mickey,” just passed away. I am still devastated.

FAVORITE HOBBIES: Crocheting. My mom taught me how years ago and I love it, but unfortunately, I don’t have time to pursue it.

PET PEEVE: A lack of organization.

FIRST JOB: I was a clerk at Leggett’s Department Store during the holidays.

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED: As a very caring person and one who tries to make a positive input in any situation I’m confronted with.

IF YOU HAD 10 MINUTES ON NATIONAL TELEVISION, WHAT WOULD YOUR TOPIC BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY: My topic would be our children. I would stress that they need nurturing, loving and education. I cannot say how important these things are. Children are our future.

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