The Power of Connections

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The Power of Connections

When it comes to networking, Sean Frantom is about as connected as you can get. He’s president of the Young Professionals of Augusta (YPA), involved in the New Leadership Council (NLC), the CitizensPoliceAcademy and is an active participant in several other community endeavors. In 2010, he ran for the Super District 10 commission seat.

And that’s just what he does in his spare time. As Development Director for Augusta’s Ronald McDonald House, Frantom is using his networking contacts to work for him as he embarks on a capital campaign to raise $6 million for a new, state of the art Ronald McDonald House that will be larger, more modern and more convenient than the current one on Greene Street.

P1150444“Currently, we’re 1.6 miles away from the hospital and have 11 bedrooms and we’re not handicapped accessible,” he says. “We’re moving 150 yards away, will have 23 bedrooms and we’ll be handicapped accessible. The plan is to probably move in mid-December, but I’ve still got a lot of money to raise.”

He’s raising much of the money through a series of new and established public events, including the April 19 Plane Pull, three concerts in April, an event in July, a golf tournament in September and something special in October that he’s not quite prepared to talk about.

Five dollars of each ticket sold at Monday’s Friend’s with Benefits Major Rager concert will benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta.

Add all that to the ongoing brick campaign and the 30th anniversary of Augusta’s Ronald McDonald House, and his Ronald McDonald plate is pretty full. And while McDonalds is a huge corporation, he says many are surprised at how little they actually contribute to the local houses.

“McDonalds is just 12 percent of our operating budget,” he says. “They are obviously huge supporters, they did put $1 million toward the capital campaign and we get 75 percent of the money from the canisters that are in the 39 area stores, but they’re not the open checkbook everyone thinks they are.”

And fighting for that money in a town full of competing nonprofits isn’t always easy, he says.

“There are too many nonprofits in this town, and that’s a fact,” he says. “So you can’t be stale. You always have to be thinking.”

Because many of the events he puts on are weather dependent, he’s actively thinking of ways of getting people to give that don’t involve outdoor events. One of the newest is the iBuddy app that he will start pushing soon.

“It’s the coupon book on mobile,” he says.

Frantom was born in Monroe, Louisiana, a small town that people just might recognize from television. While Frantom gets his share of exposure, it’s nothing like the Bearded Ones.

“My dad actually went to college with Phil [Robertson of the Duck Dynasty empire] at Louisiana Tech,” Frantom says. “I did a presentation down there in November when my grandmother died and I tried to get them to come up here and do something for the House, but it just hasn’t worked out.”

He moved to ColumbiaCounty in 1984 and moved to RichmondCounty in 2005, where he started getting involved in the Chamber of Commerce. A founding member of the YPA, he was the organization’s president after two years, and after stepping down for a time, he’s currently back in the top spot.

P1150445“I’m not term limited, but it’s time to turn the reigns over,” he says. “We’ve joined 950-plus people and we average 70 people a meeting, about 25 or 30 of which are guests, which is incredible.”

He credits the support of Mayor Deke Copenhaver for much of the organization’s quick growth.

“He’s very supportive and a people connector,” he says. “For me, the thing I’ll miss is that he gave the younger generation kudos and a chance. He’s a good friend of mine, and I’m going to miss him.”

Copenhaver will leave office after the November election.

For someone who is as much of a public figure as Frantom, it’s probably not surprising that he’s politically motivated. Though he lost his commission race, he says the experience was priceless.

“I wasn’t elected, but it’s almost like I didn’t lose,” he says. “I was told I was the hardest working candidate there ever was, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was a lot of work, and I think I only raised $19,000 to Grady’s $52,000, but I made my $19,000 go a long way.”

Given the sometimes volatile nature of Augusta politics, he says people often ask him why he wants to run in RichmondCounty, especially when there are commission seats in ColumbiaCounty, too.

“I’m like, if I don’t do it, who’s going to do it?” he says. “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 RichmondCounty.”

He says the biggest issue 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 RichmondCounty 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 RichmondCounty schools. But I think moving to ColumbiaCounty – 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.

“I said this a little bit during my run – 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 says.

That’s a bold statement for someone who is certainly grooming himself for office.

“I’m not a politician and I don’t like politics,” he says. “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.”

It may be a ways out, but he says it’s something he’s committed to working toward.

“I think that gives me the time to educate myself to know more, and if I can do that, then I’ll be set up in a good place,” he says. “I already know a lot of people and my name’s out there, but I can’t run again and lose because I’ve already lost once and I can’t be the career politician, so I’m not going to run again until it’s right for me and I know that the people that didn’t support me the first time because of the opponent I had are onboard. I want to know that I have the war chest ready and the army ready to go at it, because I kind of feel that’s my calling, to represent the city and represent the community even more than I do now.”

His Augusta-first mentality has also moved him into spearheading the charge for bringing the premiere of the James Brown movie, “Get On Up,” to Augusta.

“The premiere has to be in Augusta,” Frantom says, and the 2,000 likes his supporting Facebook page has logged seem to show that many locals agree. “He loved Augusta and Augusta didn’t always love him, and we understand that. But at the end of the day, it’s golf/Masters and Augusta/James Brown.”

He says securing the premiere would be a boon for the city in several ways.

“For one thing, if we did it at the Imperial, we’d have to upgrade the Imperial, so the Imperial would be a better place after the premiere,” he says. “And we could raise money for the James Brown Family Children Foundation (J.A.M.P.) or whoever, because it would be one of the hottest tickets the city has ever had. It would be huge for us.”

P1150446He says Universal knows about the site and that he’s currently working on getting letters of support from Copenhaver and Gov. Nathan Deal.

Regardless of whether or not Augusta gets the premiere, Frantom says it’s the city’s chance to shine for James Brown, and he’s more than happy to do what he can to make that happen.

“I’m passionate about Augusta,” he says. “I want to make sure we’re doing the best we can.”

In His Own Words:

On his golf beginnings: “I grew up in the golf industry in Jones Creek, so at a young age I was managing people three and four times my age. I was around CEOs and people who were much older than me, and I kind of got thrown into the fire of leading early [when a management change left him and another employee running the whole operation for a time].

Why he no longer plays golf: “It’s just one of those things where it’s four hours of the day, and I’d rather make a difference. And I’ve got YPA, I’ve got the Citizens Police Academy and I’ve got the New Leaders Council. I don’t really have the time to spend four hours out there. And I’ve got a girlfriend.

His biggest pet peeve: “That people think there’s nothing to do here. Are you crazy? I’ve got four events in April, and that’s just me.”

On the James Brown Arena: “Nobody wants to talk about it, but I work at the James Brown Arena [he was recently a runner for Zach Brown] and that arena is awful. If we didn’t have the James Brown Arena and I’ve got to go to ColumbiaCounty to see an event in five or ten years, that’s going to take a lot out of downtown.”

On his previous life as a concert promoter: “We did all the concerts out in ColumbiaCounty in 2008. Lady A. The Gin Blossoms. Me and two other guys brought music to the back amphitheater. We brought Lady A on April 27 in 2008. Six years almost to the day, I’m going to have them performing for the House. It’s been a big six years.”

The complications of being so connected: “With YPA, we’ve always put a Plane Pull Team up. I just felt like we needed to put our money someplace else this year, so we’re not supporting the Plane Pull this year. That’s tough for me because it’s hurting me, but I have to look at the big picture.”