By BROOKE WANSER
District 11 includes portions of historic downtown Franklin and runs along Columbia Avenue, covering portions of city and county to the west.
Of the five candidates vying for two seats in District 11, two are incumbents. Three are registered as Republicans and two as Democrats.
The Williamson County primary election will be held on May 1. The general election will be held on Aug. 2.
Sean R. Aiello, Republican
Sean Aiello grew up in Williamson County, and he can trace his family ties in the county back to 1820. His great-grandmother, grandfather, and mother all taught for the Franklin Special School District, he said.
After graduating from Centennial High School in 2008, he attended the University of Tennessee, followed by Louisiana State University for law school. Aiello practices family law and estate planning for Schell & Oglesby in Franklin.
Though Aiello has never run for public office before, he feels it’s the right time for him to become involved.
“I’m not going to be going anywhere,” he said. “I’m in it for the long haul.”
Three issues take priority for Aiello: Reducing government waste, keeping taxes as low as possible, and demanding quality education.
“I’m not talking about putting added pressure on teachers,” Aiello clarified, saying education was a driver for growth. “It’s an invaluable asset, it’s why people live here.”
Aiello said he wants to maximize taxpayer dollars to the full extent in funding schools.
Currently, he said, the county commission doesn’t have much control over the school budget proposals; Aiello wants to open a dialogue and think more critically about school needs.
He is on the board of directors with the Pull-Tight Players Theatre, a member of the Franklin Noon Rotary, and heavily involved with the Tennessee Bar Association.
Occupation: Family and estate attorney with Schell & Oglesby
Family: Wife, Savannah, works for the Williamson County Schools district as a technology coach
Address: 107 Sherwood Terrace, Franklin
Visit his website here.
Brian Beathard, Republican, incumbent
Originally from Texas, current county commissioner Brian Beathard moved to Nashville in 2004.
In 2010, Commissioner Mary Mills asked Beathard to run as she retired from the commission. Mills had always run as an Independent party candidate, and so, too, did Beathard.
“I guess if there is anything unique about this run, it’s that I’m running as a Republican, not an Independent,” he said.
The switch in party affiliation, he said, was partly due to the Democratic party primary occurring for the first time in many years.
Though Beathard said he has always pushed for the race to be nonpartisan, this year, “I knew it would be much more difficult to run as an Independent.”
“When I first ran, I told people I’m not running to change anything,” he continued. “I moved because of the schools, the parks, the way of life, and I want to see that remain for future generations.”
Schools are “the fulcrum of what makes this county great,” he said, pointing out that the county receives less per pupil than the average county in Tennessee. “Yet we still make it work,” he said.
If re-elected, Beathard also wants to focus on listening to constituents about growth, and whether they want the commission to focus on controlling growth more.
“I’d like to continue to have a county that has its cake and eats it, too,” he said.
Occupation: Business owner of a company that manufactures parts for 18-wheelers
Family: Wife, Lisa. Daughter is a freshman at Franklin High School, son is a 7th grader at Poplar Grove Elementary.
Address: 704 Fair St., Franklin
Visit his website here.
Lesley Couch, Democrat
Born and raised in Kentucky, Lesley Couch returned to the Middle Tennessee area a year and a half ago after six years away living in California and Washington, D.C.
Couch is the owner and founder of Indigo Trade Solutions, helping companies set up foreign trade zones.
She is a first time political candidate. “It’s not something I’ve ever particularly aspired to, but I really wanted to engage and become active with some of the issues I’ve seen,” she said.
She began hearing from employees what their children experienced in Williamson County Schools, like overcrowding issues and lack of funds.
“When I heard that students have to pay fees to take classes, that really concerned me,” Couch said. “I understand extracurricular activities, but to take chemistry or to take required classes should not involve additional fees.”
With the county’s “explosive” growth, Couch said a lack of affordable housing has become an issue. As a local business owner, she wants to ensure that both grocery store chains and local boutiques can stay in business, when their employees often cannot afford to live in town.
Though she is running as a Democrat, Couch said issues the county deals with are nonpartisan in nature, and shouldn’t require a political party affiliation.
“I think everyone should be concerned for our kids regardless of our political parties,” she said. Couch is a mentor with Tennessee Achieves, where she recently began working with kids transitioning to higher education.
Occupation: International trade consultant, Indigo Trade Solutions
Family: Father lives in Johnson City, sister lives in Knoxville
Address: 1459 Ridley Drive, Franklin
Visit her website here.
Karen Kendall-Fite, Democrat
Karen Kendall-Fite, an associate professor of biology at Columbia State Community College, was born in Nashville and moved to Franklin 1993.
It is her first time running for a political office, though in 2016 she ran as a delegate to attend the Bernie Sanders Convention.
A member of the Williamson County Democratic Party since 2004, Kendall-Fite recently became involved with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grassroots movement to encourage sensible gun reform.
“We have had such a shift in population in the last four years,” she said of the political party. “Even in the last two years, our local party has experienced a real rejuvenation.”
Aside for political affiliation, Kendall-Fite said she wants to be able to see change and results in county projects like she does in her students’ work.
“I’m concerned that we have a very well-to-do county, and yet, some schools still run out of copy paper and ask parents to pay for that,” she said.
Funding schools and improving roads to allow for less traffic congestion, Kendall-Fite said, are two large issues. But she also wants to be an active learner in the commission, listening to those who have experience with how the local government operates.
Occupation: Associate professor of biology at Columbia State Community College
Family: Husband, John, is a psychologist in Brentwood. Son, Sebastian.
Address: 136 Calvary Drive, Franklin
Visit her website here.
Brandon Ryan, Republican, incumbent
After initially running and losing by a few votes in 2006, Brandon Ryan became a county commissioner for District 11 in 2010.
Ryan was born and raised in Franklin, attending Father Ryan High School before going to the University of Mississippi.
Since his initial run, Ryan has been concerned about the level of the county’s debt, nearly three quarters of a billion dollars. Ryan said the debt per capita in Williamson County is the second-highest county in the state behind Davidson.
Though he acknowledged the county’s triple A bond rating, he fears the day when that bond rating may disappear.
“If we were ever to lose that, it would have an enormous detrimental effect on our budget,” he said, with county interest rates rising. “We’re not going to continue to be able to pay our bills.”
Ryan wants to look at solutions to reducing debt that do not include raising taxes. He mentioned purchasing computer software for schools on a bond, something that quickly becomes outdated in the world of rapidly advancing technology.
“We’ve got to be more judicious in distinguishing between wants and needs,” he said. “We’ve been spending money hand over fist for things I consider wants and not needs.”
Occupation: Regional sales manager at Halyard Health
Family: Wife, April. Three sons: Jackson, 15, Lawson, 13, and Tate, 3.
Address: 140 Sontag Drive, Franklin
Visit his website here.