Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Franklin Candidate for Town Council - Jim Schultz

Jim Schultz and I met recently at Panera to talk about his campaign for Town Council. This is the summary of our discussion.

FM - What is your Franklin story?

Jim Schultz - Growing up in NJ, I was the first person in my family to attend Rutgers and not clean it as a maintenance worker. As a Political Science major in college, I had a deep commitment to lobby at the state level for affordable and accessible higher education. As a result, I have a good sense about community and working class people. You know, the realistic things and challenges that people and their families struggle with in their local communities as they raise a family. 
My wife and I met at Rutgers University and after I graduated I worked for Borders Books for many years. I had an opportunity to transfer up and open up the flagship location in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. I was there when it wasn’t the safest place to be at night, and after the Boston 5 bank had moved out, I moved up just before they put the new rug in for the store. That's what brought me to New England. 
My wife and I looked at it as a great opportunity to break away from our comfort zone and make a new life for us here. I found myself at ground zero for the redevelopment of the Downtown Boston. I was a member of the retail community for Downtown Boston Business Improvement District. I sat in on many of the Downtown Crossing meetings associated with what is now known as successful redevelopment. 
While I was there, I uncovered a great marketing opportunity and I wrote up a business plan, convincing the CEO of Borders to create a new position for me. Now when you look at a billion-dollar company, it says something that I was able to successfully navigate the system and write a business plan and convinced the CEO who had four hundred other stories that they were looking at, to give me the opportunity to build a field marketing division based on things that I learned. 
It shows that I have the knowledge and tenacity to persevere. It shows ingenuity about how to build an infrastructure, manage a multi million-dollar budget, and execute with precision in order to get things done. My team ended up creating a twenty-million-dollar line item to the budget where we were revenue generator. From zero to twenty million, and it was all through co-op marketing, working with arts, communities, and events. 
My wife and I were living in Canton. When we were looking for a place to buy a house, we realized very rapidly we couldn't afford anything inside the 128 beltway. When we started to look south, Franklin at the time when we were looking 1998 had several things that we were tracking. The commuter rail line into Boston. Franklin had a very rural feel to it at that time. So we moved in the house that we live in now on Macintosh St. We raised two kids in the school system. Our daughter is currently at Oak St and my son is currently in the Engineering program at Tri-County. Franklin has given us a real opportunity for us to raise a family in a very cost effective way. 
So back to my foundations of service, I got involved in the Franklin Downtown Partnership. I have been on the board now for three years. I have been a part of the Boy Scouts organization since my son joined the cub scouts (11 years ago). Currently, I'm a Treasurer of Troop 99, with our charter organization being the Franklin Rod and Gun Club. So for me community service and community commitment is a big thing. 
One of the things that I really have learned with the downtown partnership and I continued to draw from my experience is that arts and culture drive traffic. One of the things that I really will use as a differentiating point of contrast from some of the others is that traffic is not necessarily a bad thing. There is this debate that we constantly have in this town about traffic. But we don't differentiate between vehicular and pedestrian. 
There is a sentiment that our town can’t be a Wellesley, that it can't be a center for activity and I disagree. I believe that when communities utilize cultural events, nurture strong retail, and create event opportunities, that you can drive people downtown. And they'll come downtown and stay downtown and enjoy everything it has to offer.

FM - What do you see as a challenge for the position of Town Council?

Jim Schultz - I think the biggest challenge for the Town Council for me is really what I see in our budget and our revenue cycle as a community. I think that our payouts for infrastructure from past-uncontrolled growth and liabilities are currently out pacing our revenue. Roughly 60 plus percent of our revenues in town are coming from our property taxes. Now that's an area where the town has been very outspoken and very adamant that general overrides are not the answer. So where do we get the money that we need? 
Naturally a portion will be in fighting to keep the 30 plus percent we receive in state aid, but I think that's the biggest opportunity we have is going to be in business, industrial, biotechnology, and technology companies to invest. I think that as a town our biggest challenge is going to be how do we incentivize and drive those companies to come into Franklin. We need to identify them and work to welcome them into our town. 
We had a very big commitment within the 2013 master plan about getting companies to come to Franklin. We have identified multiple areas of development along Grove Street, but we haven’t yet scratched the surface to get those companies into Franklin. I think we really need to take a look at the model that Marlboro has. Marlboro has an economic development corporation where they have an executive director whose sole job is to identify and work with corporations and to bring them into Marlboro. 
One of the things that I'm beginning to realize is that there are organizations out there that represent MetroWest area and the 495 beltway. Marlboro all the way down past Plainville. We can work more work and collaborate with these people. It doesn't matter where the business ultimately ends up because if it’s in that 495 strip between 95 and 90, Franklin ends up being an option where those folks buy homes and do their shopping. 
Another challenge I think also just as an individual is just really getting into the budget, really getting down into the numbers. Fortunately, I have a degree in accounting. I have dealt with P&L’s before. I understand how to read an income statement. I understand that there's tough choices that are going to be made. But those choices have to be made. I think that the one thing we really need to is not to pit certain communities against others. We have access to credit, we have access to money. The question is do we as a community want to do the right thing?

FM - What do you bring to the position that would set you apart from the other candidates?

Jim Schultz - Let me put it into the four points that I am running on. It really comes down to vision, culture, transparency and trust. I have a vision of what this community needs. This is where my retail experiences, my work with the downtown partnerships in Boston and Franklin, my work with the cultural committee, festivals, and cultural organizations around the globe come into play. At the heart of a thriving economic community are culture and events. All of those pieces are going to be critical to driving business, driving traffic, driving industry into the community. I have some decent connections with folks in the technology industry. I'd like to be part of the process in trying to get people to come and do business within the town. 
I truly believe that we need to invest in a position whose sole role is to drive revenue through business. We have all of these section on the Master Plan, there's five separate districts on Union Street that we've identified that offer business and industrial growth and development. They have been there for how a long time and we don't have people banging on our doors. So long as we work with abutters and facilitate this with a planned growth plan, it’s good for Franklin. 
Second part is culture. We tremendous assets of cultural diversity in town: performing arts, multi disciplinary arts, visual arts, and culinary arts. We could really drive to celebrate the culture of what we have in Franklin. That shows in my efforts with the cultural district. Part of what my vision is that events drive traffic, events drive business. The more we can tout what we have here in Franklin, the more you’ll find reasons why you could come. 
Transparency is one of the things that I think is the biggest problem. There is just is not enough of it. We have by and large run on a very tight back door closed meeting need to know basis. My pledge is I will have office hours. I will publicly tell you where I'm going to be. I will make myself available for one who wants to come and talk to me outside of the town council meeting. 
Arguably, the town council meeting is not the best place to get you the best service. Let's be honest. We've been to the town council meetings and when you come there with an opinion and the opinion is not popular, you run the risk of being ridiculed by select council members. It’s not acceptable. Further, if you can’t come to meetings, you should easily be able to find video of the meetings, or minutes of the meetings. 
The transparency issue for me is very important. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. I will do everything I can to bring conversation and the dialogue about what we need into the 21srt century. 
The last piece is trust. I will always tell people what I am thinking. I have lived here going on seventeen years. Two kids in the school system. I have no interest to facilitate personal business in this town above and beyond my commitment to be of service to the community. What you’ll get is my view as a citizen.

If you have any follow up questions for Jim, you can contact him via

You can also visit his Facebook/webpage: https://www.facebook.com/SchultzForFranklin

Noteworthy: This information is intended to help the Franklin voters when we all head to the ballot box on November 3rd. The interview candidates have had an opportunity to review the text before publishing to ensure the accuracy of our discussion.

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