After unsuccessfully running for Franklin’s Ward 2 alderman seat in 2017, Mike Vaughn said he had no intention of running against an incumbent again.
When he heard Alderman Dana McLendon, who’s held the position for the past 24 years, was retiring, Vaughn said he was surprised.
The last election turned rancorous between the two men, with Vaughn accusing McLendon of voter intimidation in a narrow defeat, filing and then dropping a lawsuit against him.
Vaughn said he made the recent decision to run after consulting his wife and praying about it.
“Because there is going to be such a turnover at the board of alderman, there needs to be experience on that board,” he said. “Local elections affect the quality of life.”
Though Vaughn has never held public office, he has several decades of experience serving on boards.
He was born and raised in Texas, but he is an eighth generation Tennessean. After moving to Tennessee, where his grandparents lived, he attended the University of Tennessee at Martin as a communications major. There, he met his wife, Joan, and the two have been married to since 1983.
Vaughn lived in Memphis, working for Hartford Insurance, and eventually moved to Nashville in 1987. There, he became involved with the state government, planning for Tennessee’s bicentennial celebration in 1996. He formed a nonprofit, the Tennessee Foundation, and came up with the idea for the state’s bicentennial painting, featuring famous Tennesseans like Ida B. Wells, Davy Crockett, and W.C. Handy, as well as co-writing the bicentennial song, “Pride of Tennessee.” It was adopted as one of the state’s official songs in 1996.
Vaughn continued working with state and local governments in economic development surrounding their heritage and history before he began managing projects overseas in China and Hong Kong. He has served as a CEO for various companies, including PacUS LLC and Corporate Flight Management.
If elected, Vaughn said he wants to continue supporting city of Franklin employees, especially police and firemen.
“I’m a ‘Back the Blue’ guy,” he said. He also praised the management of streets and waste by city employees.
He pointed to projects like the pedestrian bridge over the Harpeth River from The Park at Harlinsdale Farm to Chestnut Bend as things residents of Ward 2 are looking forward to. Vaughn also said he would focus on moving capital projects forward, like the wastewater treatment facility.
As the Mack Hatcher Parkway extension past Hillsboro Road to Highway 96 West is wrapping up, Vaughn said he wants to forge ahead and complete the loop by funding the road back through Westhaven and up to Columbia Pike.
He suggested the city could lobby state legislators to make it a priority.
“Franklin is a major contributor to the overall state budget, and we could get that funded,” he said.
Through his extensive travels, Vaughn said what he’s found that makes Middle Tennessee and Franklin special are “Judeo Christian infrastructure, honor and honesty, it’s hard-working people.”
“We have a worldview, a core culture that hearkens back to when people used to be driven by personal word and bond,” he said.
According to Vaughn, what’s attracted so many to the area are the limited government and freedoms Tennesseans enjoy.
Vaughn wants voters to know this about him: “I don’t have any special interest commitments, I don’t have any agendas, I don’t have any business with the city or county or not for profits.” He described himself as a fiscal, or “granola” conservative, meaning he believes in environmental preservation as well as limited growth.
Vaughn quoted the lyrics from “Pride of Tennessee,” explaining that is the legacy he wants to live up to.
“Let's take time to remember those who went before, whose lives made a difference in the world for you and me. Their courage faith and vision are the pride of Tennessee,” he said.
Election Day in Franklin is Oct. 26. Early voting will run Oct. 6-21. Four wards and an at-large seat will be on the ballot.