It’s been eight months since City Commissioner Scott Franklin was elected into office. Let’s hear how he feels it has been going so far.
Last October, while City Commissioner Scott Franklin was still only a candidate, The Lakelander asked him, “What would be your top priority as a city commissioner?”
His answer? “Foster a more user-friendly relationship between city hall and the citizens of Lakeland.”
It’s been eight months since Franklin has been elected into his first term as Southeast District City Commissioner, and he still remains committed to giving the Lakeland community the voice they deserve.
“One of the things that we heard in the campaign was that people wanted the ability to have a greater opportunity for community input,” says Franklin. The weekly city commission meetings are currently held the first and third Monday morning of the month. However, citizens have voiced concerns about the time of meetings as it’s typically when most have work commitments.
Because of this feedback, the city will be moving these meetings to later afternoon/early evenings starting in September. “We have done a lot of research with a lot of other communities and seen how they do it,” says Franklin.
Although the change will have a financial impact, as it requires overtime and more staffing, the commissioners are more than willing to give it a shot. “The way I look at it: that’s why city government exists. And if it can improve the process, get more input from people, and more in the conversation, the better,” says Franklin.
Lakeland has been home to Franklin for over the past 40 years. Yet, since being in this position, he has been even more exposed to the liveliness of the city. “You think you have a pulse of what’s going on in the community, but it isn’t until you’re out there at events that you realize there’s so much more.”
Within the first few months in his new position, Franklin notes attending anywhere from 20 to 30 events a week.
On top of serving our city as a commissioner, Franklin is also president and CEO of Lanier Upshaw Inc., a regional insurance and risk management agency based in Lakeland. He is also a husband and father to three adult children. So, between all these commitments, Franklin quickly learned that this wasn’t sustainable. “You just can’t do them all,” he says. He’s looking forward to better strategizing a plan where the commissioners can divide and conquer attendance at community events.
Franklin sees the value of hearing from multiple perspectives. “People think [Lakeland] is an old, sleepy town, but that’s just not the case. We have a vibrant community. It’s transforming as we speak,” he says. And this transformation is not possible only through city office. “I believe we need a constant influx of new people and new ideas.” This is done by intentionally engaging with city government and within the community.
Franklin was not always in the insurance business. He is also a retired Naval aviator and served active duty for 14 years and 12 in the reserves – an experience that he believes greatly prepared him for the role he is in now as city commissioner.
“I think it really opens your eyes. It gives you perspective and makes you tolerant of different things,” says Franklin as he reflects on his time in the Navy. Being exposed to many cultures helped him to be more understanding. “I think it made me more tolerant of others’ opinions, understanding that there’s more than one way of getting things done,” he adds.
He also notes how serving in the Navy enabled him to be a better team player. “You figure out how to get things done and cooperate,” says Franklin. “And that there’s definitely strength in numbers.”
Sounds like great life lessons to better serve our community while in city office today – to make better-informed decisions and intentionally create avenues where the people in the city have a voice in its future.
Overall, Franklin is grateful to be a part of what’s happening in Lakeland. “I’ve lived in bigger cities and I’ve lived in smaller places, and Lakeland to me has the best of all worlds,” says Franklin. “It’s still a community where individuals can make an impact.”