Warren mayor gives black-history speech to Jefferson students
By Ed Runyan
Mayor Doug Franklin told the children at the Jefferson K-8 school Tuesday for Black History Month that his proudest professional moment was being elected Warren’s first black mayor.
Franklin, in office just over a year, connected with the children during his presentation by telling them that he attended Jefferson Elementary School at that same location. He also talked individually to many of them.
During the question session, he was asked his proudest professional moment and said it was being elected mayor.
“It meant a whole lot to my family and a whole lot to my supporters, both black and white,” he said. “We worked very hard. We were told there was no way it would happen, and that was just a great night for my family and for myself personally.”
Franklin talked about the work that a mayor does — being responsible for roads, garbage collection and upkeep of the parks — and discussed the 24/7 nature of the work and early-morning phone calls.
“It’s not unusual to get a call from the police chief or the fire chief when something bad has happened in the city, and I have to get up and go comfort families who are in distress, or they may have lost the lives of their family in a fire. Those are the most challenging parts of my job,” he said.
Franklin said he loves being mayor, wanted to be a public servant from a fairly young age and studied political science and American government at Kent State University.
“I’m a homebody. That’s probably going to be the focus of the rest of my life,” he said of public service in Warren.
Franklin was safety- service director under Mayor Michael O’Brien eight years and served on Warren City Council 14 years before that.
When he first ran for elected office in Warren in 1989, he found that he wasn’t always accepted right away, but he didn’t let that stop him, and he’s won every one of his 15 elections.
His campaign included knocking on doors in his ward, which was 91 percent white.
“I had doors slammed in my face. I was called a lot of bad names, told to get off their street, get off their porch, but ... I started talking to them about what I knew they wanted to hear from me in terms of what we had in common — how can we make our neighborhoods safer, how can we improve the level of service in our street department, how can we improve the parks and schools for your kids?
“As soon as I connected, it sort of wiped away all of those negative and racist comments,” he said.
Andre’ Smith, principal of grades 3-5 at Jefferson, said Mayor Franklin’s talk was “an example of the benefit of hard work,” adding “Kids need to be taught to have dreams and to have goals.”
Franklin said his hobbies include playing tennis, watching football, working out and reading.
“I had a great childhood growing up in Warren,” he said. He graduated from Warren Western Reserve High School.