Elizabeth Wanczak

Elizabeth Wanczak

According to the online real estate marketplace Zillow, the median home price in the city of Franklin is currently sitting just above $541,000, a more than 9 percent jump since January 2020.

Going back 10 years to March of 2011, and the median home price in Franklin increased by nearly 60 percent, jumping from $322,000 to today's more than half a million dollars.

Elizabeth Wanczak, an alderman candidate for Franklin's fourth ward, said that bringing affordable housing to Franklin would be a key issue for her if elected, and that doing so would bring a litany of improvements to the city that compound on each other, everything from reduced traffic congestion to increased economic activity.

Elizabeth Wanczak

A native of Texas, Wanczak moved to Tennessee at the age of 18 in 2005, and planted roots in Franklin in 2009 with her husband Nick. Earning a bachelor's in political science from Sewanne, Wanczak opened a songwriting studio in Nashville known as "Write Off The Row."

Experienced in debate and policy, Wanczak qualified for a national debate tournament in high school, and was a member of the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature during her college years, being awarded the Carlisle award in November of 2008.

Wanczak had also run to represent Franklin's fourth ward in 2017, though ultimately lost to her opponent, Franklin Alderman Margaret Martin. Despite her loss, Mayor Ken Moore appointed her to the city's Housing Commission, a commission that she served as chair for two years.

Now, four years later, Wanczak said that she wants to take all she's learned from working on the Housing Commission and put it into policy.

"I feel like I could really serve my community and my neighbors"

When asked what compelled her to run for office both in 2017 and during this current election cycle, Wanczak said it was a combination of two things; her intrigue for government, and fulfilling a promise to a dear friend.

"I had a very dear friend who passed away suddenly right before the deadline to file [in 2017]," Wanczak said. "He and I had always talked about me running for something; he was going to manage my campaign. So with his passing, we got the notice that at the time Alderman Martin was running unopposed; I looked at my husband and said 'I really think I need to run for this in his honor.'"

Wanczak also said that of the most pressing issues facing the city of Franklin, many of them were happening directly in her ward - Ward 4, the central western portion of the city - and that her newfound experience in the Housing Commission would make her best equipped to tackle those issues.

"So my platform is smart growth, fiscal responsibility and community involvement, and I think for everyone in Franklin, we are just experiencing unprecedented growth," Wanczak said.

"With the new Mack Hatcher extension that's going to go right in front of West Haven, a lot of that new growth is going to be coming directly to Ward 4. So [what's important to me is] making sure that we are planning for sustainable growth that is taking into account the infrastructure needs of the ward and the city, that we are doing things with a cognition of the impact on the environment."

Specifically, Wanczak said, helping Franklin's "missing middle" in being able to afford housing would have a plethora of positive effects for the city.

"On the Housing Commission, they talk a lot about the 'missing middle;' we've got a lot of people that're in our service sectors - our nurses, firemen, teachers - that would like to be able to live in the community and currently can't," Wanczak said.

"That effects the economy if our nurses are having to commute in, so I'm trying to address that as well but also be cognizant of the land use."

While affording the opportunity for more people to live in the same city they work in has its own intrinsic benefits, Wanczak said the benefits of doing so could even extend to reducing traffic congestion.

"One of the number one complaints I hear from residents is traffic; you're going to get a lot more traffic if people are having to commute really long distances to work," Wanczak said.

"If you live here, this is also where you're going to get off work and go to the local Kroger to get your groceries; you're going to maybe run into a local restaurant and pick up dinner; you're going to stop in on Main Street and pick up that birthday gift for that party. You're supporting your local businesses when you do that and you're supporting and encouraging a vital community where everyone feels connected. That's the community that I want to live in."

Wanczak also spoke highly of expanding the city's green space, and advocated for continuing to construct greenway connections between the city's many parks.

"One of the ways that I am fully supportive is the city's project to basically interconnect a lot of these [parks]; putting in a multi-use path that would connect one park to another," Wanczak said. "I think all of that is wonderful to create a vital community, as well as [it being] good for the health of the citizens who live here."

"I want my ward to know that I am here to listen"

As of late February, Wanczak had already raised more than $12,000 for her campaign, support that she said she was humbled to have witnessed.

"I can't express verbally how humbled I have been to have all of this support, but they feel like my approach is no-nonsense, reasonable and with solutions that can be applied to actually have success," Wanczak said.

"I'm doing everything I really can to listen, I want my ward to know that I am here to listen and want to try to find consensus, to figure out ways to solve these problems where we all come out ahead."

Regarding listening to constituents, Wanczak also made her position known as to where she stood on the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen's decision last year to require protests or gatherings of 20 people or more to receive written permission from the city.

"I would have opposed it... I firmly believe in the First Amendment," Wanczak said.

"Speech, whether I agree with it or not, is one of the freedoms that we have in this country. There have been protests in the square that I have supported, and there have been protests that I have not supported what they're saying, but I absolutely support their right to say it. I think we get into dicey areas when we start putting those constraints [up]."

Ultimately, when asked why she would be the best candidate to represent Franklin's fourth ward, Wanczak said it was both her experience in policy and her dedication to pursuing meaningful legislation that made her the best person for the job.

"I'm really good at policy, I'm really good at finding consensus and getting that into ordinances that actually improve people's lives," Wanczak said.

"I'm nerdy enough to really be focusing on looking at the nitty gritty and making sure that we're streamlined, that we're going though city ordinances continuously and making sure that everything is really serving our residents."

Franklin election

Wanczak will be running against incumbent Alderman Margaret Martin to represent the city's fourth ward.

The upcoming Franklin election will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 26. Franklin residents will need to be registered to vote by Sept. 27 to participate in the election. To check if you registered already click here, or to register to vote online, click here.