The Story of Leadership Franklin
In 1996, two different groups of Franklin citizens had the same idea, independent of each other: to “form an organization to enhance leadership in citizens who are positioned to make a difference for Franklin.” Among them were visionaries such as Julian Bibb, Richard Herrington, Jim Cross and Gayle Moher-Harris. In pursuit of this idea, both groups came together under the leadership of Caroline Cross and birthed Leadership Franklin. The founders modeled the organization after the Leadership Nashville organization that had been making a difference for that city for over thirty years.
The founders were adamant they wanted to take a different approach from a pure economic development focus, so they established a program that gave class members exposure to multiple aspects of Franklin, including history, criminal justice, education, media and entertainment, and government. Class selection criteria were set to ensure diversity, encourage the sharing of ideas, and broaden local engagement.
Over the years, many of the Leadership Franklin class initiatives have become active, working programs. The Columbia Avenue streetscape project, the Franklin Tomorrow organization, and the Latino Fire Safety Outreach program all began as Leadership Franklin class projects.
Today, the program is overseen by an Executive Director and an Associate Director, both leaders in the community who volunteer untold hours to Leadership Franklin throughout the year. Executive Director Paula Harris is Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of the engineering firm Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon, Inc., and Associate Director Debbie Henry is Executive Director of the TMA Group/Franklin Transit Authority.