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Unopposed for seat, Petersen eager to continue tackling zoning, budgeting issues

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An alderman since 2007, Ann Petersen is unopposed in her bid for another term, setting her up for four more years to pursue her passion of budgeting and planning and to advocate for Franklin homeowners.

Petersen said she was surprised and excited to find out she was unopposed.

“First time ever — this is really amazing,” she said.

Petersen, who grew up in Mississippi, received her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Ole Miss and has lived in Franklin now for over 50 years. She said several people have told her that moving to Franklin is like coming home — an experience she said she identifies with, as she is still in touch with some people she first met in the city.

Though Petersen has been an alderman for three terms, her background in local politics goes way back. In 1978, she became the first woman on the Williamson County Planning Commission, and she joined the Franklin Planning Commission nearly 10 years later. She also chairs the city’s Budget and Finance Committee.

With her background in math, Petersen is a numbers person, and these roles fit well. She said she is also interested in planning and zoning.

“This is a busy time for both of those, especially with the new zoning ordinance being looked at now,” Petersen said, noting that she’s still working on re-reading the 400-plus pages of the ordinance.

“I found out, even if you read it all, there are some things you can miss, and when we had this done, maybe 10 years ago … there are a bunch of things in there that I didn’t catch, so I’m trying to be really thorough this time.”

Petersen said zoning, in particular, is one of the reasons she got into politics. She said that years ago, when she was living near the Harpeth River, her house flooded. The event drove her to become an advocate for homeowners and strive to make sure new neighborhoods were built in low-risk areas.

“I said I don’t want anybody else to have to live in a house built in a floodplain, so that’s where I really became interested,” she said.

Petersen explained that every house is outside the floodplain yet because, as zoning changes, houses that seemed to be a safe distance from the river later turn out to be cutting it a bit close.

“It’s really difficult because, here, the river is just tiny unless it’s flooding,” Petersen said. “It’s kind of like a creek except when it floods.”

Peterson said she will continue to meet with city planners to discuss the zoning ordinance and progress toward her goal.

Apart from her interest in zoning, Petersen also has had a hand in several projects, including voting to approve the construction of CoolSprings Galleria nearly 30 years ago.

“That was a huge step for us because, back then, all of the malls and everything … were in Davidson County,” Petersen said. “So, this was the first time that we ever got on the sales tax, which is really wonderful. And if you look at our general budget, sales tax is a huge, huge part of that.”

Petersen said that she was an immediate supporter of the addition of a sidewalk down state Route 96 East, connecting Mack Hatcher to Pinkerton Park. The sidewalk plan was introduced by Alderman Brandy Blanton when the city was putting together a list of top capital projects.

“It wasn’t even on their list, and (Brandy) said, ‘I want to put something on this list.’ Immediately, I said, ‘That’s going to be one of the top priorities for me, too, right away,’” Petersen said, mentioning that the sidewalk now runs near her house.

“She gets all the credit; I don’t, but I’m the one that gets to walk on it. And you’d be surprised how many times, even in the hot weather, you see people out there walking.”

Petersen shared that she is also excited about the possibility of the city placing a sidewalk along Lewisburg Pike toward Carnton.

While Petersen’s love for numbers has certainly carried over from her teaching career, she shared a few more qualities that also have aided her as an alderman.

“I feel like I need to do all my homework because, see, I expected that of my students,” she said, explaining that she tries to read as much as she can to stay informed. “I always have some questions to ask and things that I want to hear more about.”

Petersen said she is looking forward to another term on the board.

“We’ve got a wonderful group of people,” she said. “I mean, heaven knows we don’t agree with each other all the time, but it’s been a good group to work with, and the city has a lot of good people working for it.”

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