Jimmy Franconia Enjoying Role as Director of Public Works
As director of public works for the city of Jeffersontown, Jimmy Franconia focuses not just on the infrastructure of roads, but also on strengthening the infrastructure of the local community.
Franconia took the position in January of 2011. Two years ago, he retired from a career coaching football at various levels. Even after he took his job with Jeffersontown, he has never stopped coaching.
“I have learned that I can never say I am done coaching,” Franconia says. “Building a new culture and family-oriented environment with my Jeffersontown employees was the first task at hand when taking over this position.”
Franconia’s job is to oversee the Public Works Department. In simple terms, this includes the maintenance of all the infrastructure of the city of Jeffersontown. He manages all roadways and sidewalks, including all repairs and repaving, pothole repairs, storm water runoff drainage, and the maintenance and mowing of roadways and parks. In fact, the department does all park landscaping in-house.
“We are so much more involved behind the scenes than people realize,” Franconia says.
Every year, Jeffersontown hosts the Gaslight Festival, the third largest festival in the state. Franconia says they work hard behind the scenes to set up and clean up for these events, and many don’t realize it.
“Our guys play the role behind the scenes where we clean up after every event when everyone’s gone home,” Franconia says. “No one even knows we were there. We get the city back to spotless. We play a lot of roles in our city that are invisible.”
An average day for Franconia may start with a plan, but he’s always prepared to pivot, just like he was when he coached defensive plays in football.
“You can have an expectation for the day, but being a city, we may all of a sudden have a road collapse,” Franconia says. “We’ll need to close that road, move equipment, get it repaired and open that road ASAP.”
The jobs he oversees also change with the seasons. In the spring, he says the week goes in a circle for his workers. His crews cut all the grass in one week and then circle back around the following week to begin again. However, in winter when things slow down, he sends his crews to the woods to clear trees for the parks or to beautify the landscapes. Once a big snow hits, his first priorities are to clear the roadways, and they do not stop until the snow event is finished.
He credits his work ethic to his father. Growing up, Franconia worked in a family-owned dump-truck business with his father. It was one of the longest-running companies in Kentucky.
“I left high school and went straight into business with him,” Franconia says. “I started there crawling on the ground and went straight to working at the top. I was there 28 years. My college was the school of hard knocks, going into business with my father.”
He says his father was tough, working hours upon hours every day of the week, and Franconia brings that work ethic to his job with pride.
“Even on vacation when we don’t travel, I come in every day for a couple hours,” he says. “It’s how I was raised. You have to make sure you lead by example. Otherwise, you’ll never make it.”
His work ethic has paid off. Franconia is proud of the fact that through nearly 10 years, the city has invested more than $4 million worth of equipment in public works and built a new public works administrative training facility. Franconia himself is a Kentucky Roads Scholar, completing the Road Master Program through the University of Kentucky. This program is a leadership class involving aggregate construction, asphalt construction, concrete construction, drainage and roadway repairs. Simply put, it’s a college for construction.
After 28 years working in the construction industry, Franconia was looking for something different to do, as the work made for a very difficult living. The mayor approached him to gauge his interest in the director of public works role because Franconia’s background in construction made him a perfect fit.
“It was just the right time,” Franconia says. “I was ready to take opportunities leading in a different direction. I love working with the community, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s such a blessing to know the people, to know the format, and to know the expectations. It’s a win-win situation.”
He says the best, and often most challenging, part about his job is putting out the anger of a citizen who has a complaint. Again, he sees this through his coach’s eyes. Every play is designed differently, so he strives to meet with people face-to-face instead of over the phone, and understand their problem completely so he can fix it.
“I want them smiling before I leave,” Franconia says. “I take great pride in that. It’s a challenge to please everyone, but it’s a challenge I accept.”
Franconia hopes to bring more young people on the staff. His passion is to mentor them and invest in them because they are the future of the city of Jeffersontown. In his department alone, employees range from landscapers to electricians to asphalt workers, concrete finishers, and even jack-of-all-trade workers.
“You can have a great career here,” he says. “You can have a bright future with a very nice and rewarding life. Everyone can be mentored, no matter what age.”
He credits many of the department’s accomplishments to the staff that backs him up, calling them the best team on the planet that “always makes me look great.” He brought a handful of them from his previous professional career, and rebuilt the team and culture.
“I am most proud of the talent I have been able to acquire, to build with what we already had,” Franconia says. “Each one takes great pride in making Jeffersontown a beautiful community.”
Franconia is married to his high school sweetheart, having celebrated 31 years of marriage, with three children and one grandson. He is a family man and loves being a grandparent.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Franconia says. “You always hear about it, but you don’t know until you experience it.”
In addition to family, Franconia’s passions in life are to help and work with kids, especially student-athletes, and to contribute to his community. He often merges the two.
For example, during his coaching years, a student-athlete on a team in his league was diagnosed with a brain tumor. That team’s coach told Franconia he was doing a fundraiser to help the family. Franconia immediately reached out to parents to present a challenge.
“I told them to tell their kids to break their piggy banks, because we were going to raise $500,” Franconia says. “Within 24 hours, we had raised $4,000.”
He had the parents come to the field after the game to present them with the special surprise.
“That got the ball rolling,” Franconia says. “That’s the kind of culture we want here in Jeffersontown.”
He has continued to conduct many fundraisers, giving money to needy families and supporting them as much as he can. The first family he was able to rally for when he came on staff was a family who lost a child in a motocross accident.
“These guys bought in 100%,” Franconia says of his colleagues. “We love to give back to the community. You’re used to the government taking your money as a taxpayer, but it hasn’t been like that here. To give, you have a different perspective on life. It’s been very awesome.”
He would love nothing more than to see his department continue to grow and give back to the community.
“I am driven by making Jeffersontown – or as I refer to it, J-Town – the best city to work, live and play,” Franconia says. “It’s very awesome to be able to observe a wonderful town. I can’t speak highly enough of being a part of this community.”