As the newly elected District 7 commissioner Sean Frantom was sworn into office this week, it was interesting to watch him take his seat next to his new colleagues, many of whom are twice his age.
Whatever you want to say about Frantom, this 36-year-old commissioner has proven the people of District 7 take him seriously.
Last week, Frantom received 62 percent of the votes cast in the District 7 runoff compared to incumbent Commissioner Louis “Hap” Harris’ 37 percent.
Frantom garnered almost twice as many votes as the 65-year-old Harris, who had been appointed to the seat following former Augusta Commissioner Donnie Smith’s resignation last fall.
So, the big question now is: What will Frantom bring to the table?
Will he be able to make a difference and truly make “Augusta a better place,” as he has pledged for the past several months?
Only time will really tell, but one thing is certain: It will be interesting to watch.
So, who is Sean Frantom?
Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Frantom comes from a small town that people just might be familiar with from television.
“My dad actually went to college with Phil [Robertson of the Duck Dynasty empire] at Louisiana Tech,” Frantom told the Metro Spirit’s Eric Johnson last year.
Frantom moved to Columbia County in 1984 and relocated to Richmond County in 2005, where he became the founding member of the Young Professionals of Augusta (YPA) and the organization’s president after only two years.
Since 2007, Frantom and the YPAs have boosted its members to 950-plus people and it continues to grow each month.
He credits the support of Mayor Deke Copenhaver for much of the organization’s quick growth.
“He’s very supportive and a people connector,” Frantom said of Copenhaver, adding that the former mayor always gave the younger generation “kudos and a chance.” “He’s a good friend of mine.”
Frantom is currently the director of development at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta. But he believes it is his “calling to represent the city and represent the community even more than I do now,” and that’s why he ran for office.
But given the sometimes volatile nature of Augusta politics, he says people often ask him why he wanted to run in Richmond County.
“I’m like, ‘If I don’t do it, who’s going to do it?’” he asked. “This community is not going to get better unless people put their heels in the ground and dig in deep. I feel like that’s why I’m put here right now. I feel like I can be a change maker in Richmond County.”
He said one of the biggest issues facing Augusta is education.
“And I’m not just saying school education,” he says. “I’m talking about educating people about what’s going on in this community so they understand what’s going on.”
That said, he’s also concerned about Augusta’s schools.
“The education piece of Richmond County is going to be tough when I have kids,” he says. “I was a public school person, but I don’t know if I’m going to be able to put them in public school because of the current status of Richmond County schools. But I think moving to Columbia County — it’s a little bit of a weak thing to do, because it’s not going to get better unless people do something about it.”
Sometimes doing something about it means sticking around, he says, and sometimes it means doing something unpopular, like raising taxes.
“It’s not that I want to raise taxes, but I want to educate people that if there’s not any money in the coffers, you can’t have better services,” he said.
That’s a bold statement for someone who has often acknowledged that he would one day like to be mayor of the Garden City.
“I’m not a politician and I don’t like politics,” he said. “I don’t watch national politics at all, but I look at how people who are elected can make a difference in the community and make it a better place, and that’s why I want to be an elected official. I think in eight or 10 years I want to run for mayor.”
The way Frantom handles himself as a commissioner over the next several years will definitely determine whether he has the strength and wherewithal to be mayor one day.
Here’s a little advice, Commissioner Frantom:
Pace yourself. Don’t burn bridges. Educate yourself on the issues and don’t try to be friends with everybody.
Just be yourself.
But most importantly, respect your seat as the District 7 commissioner.
The people of this city gave you a gift. Don’t squander it.