Couple integral to Oak Ridge North's history
Frances and John Planchard know Oak Ridge North like few others know their community. The Planchards have lived in the city for a combined 76 years, have decades of service on the City Council and other committees, have three children who grew up there and the couple even met in Oak Ridge North, where they have been married for nine years.
"I like the smallness of it," Frances Planchard said of Oak Ridge North. "It makes you feel like you're in a small town instead of being engulfed by a whole bunch of people."
John moved to Oak Ridge North in 1971, while Frances relocated in 1979. Her daughter, Kelly Vader, still lives in the city, and the couple have two grandchildren who live nearby. While the Planchards own a couple of businesses in Montgomery County—Oak Ridge Farms nursery in Montgomery and Pallotta's Mexican Grille on Rayford Road—perhaps their greatest passion is serving the community where they live.
John's first foray into community involvement was serving on the finance committee for the South Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Department in the 1970s. He later served on boards for the Oak Ridge Municipal Utility District prior to the city's incorporation in 1979, at which point he ran for and was elected on Oak Ridge North's first City Council.
He recalls holding the first council meeting at Clayton's—the site that Food Basket currently occupies—which was managed by then-Mayor Bud Roesler. After serving multiple terms, he retired from the council before becoming involved in the landscaping and construction of Marilyn Edgar Park two years later.
Soon after, he served his only term as mayor from 1986-1988. Since that time, John has served on other boards, including Drainage District No. 6 and 15 years on the Economic Development Corporation Board, its longest serving member.
"I really like to make a contribution," he said. "I always said, I was in the Army, that I gave two years of my life to my country, and now I'm giving all of my time to my community to make it a better place to live."
When he was not out serving the community, John was working. He is now in his 33rd year with the Mitchell Family Corporation.
Frances, meanwhile, retired as a school teacher in 2000. She taught business at McCullough High School from 1976 until 1988 and then taught at Oak Ridge High School until her retirement.
Frances said she developed an interest in serving on City Council after attending meetings and getting involved in key issues. She was elected to the council in 2010 and will soon begin her second term.
"I'd like to see more people come to council so that they would know what was really going on in the city," she said. "That's how I got involved was coming to the council meetings to see what was really going on. And I think that's important."
John praised his wife's work since she was first elected, including the strides the current council has made in repairing the aging infrastructure and the planned installation of the new water storage tanks.
"It's amazing what a good job she's done," he said. "She's really taken to this and really enjoys it."
Major decisions in Oak Ridge North
With decades of experience on the Oak Ridge North City Council and various boards and committees, John and Frances Planchard have been involved in some of the most important decisions in the city's history. These are among the most significant:
Incorporation – John served with the Oak Ridge North Municipal Utility District in the 1970s and served on the first City Council when the city decided to incorporate in 1978.
Public Works Department – In becoming a city, Oak Ridge North had to take on several responsibilities, including water, sewer and other services provided by the MUD. John helped guide the foundation of the city's public works department.
Police Department – Oak Ridge North originally contracted with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office. Upon incorporation, John helped form the city's police department.
Marilyn Edgar Park – After serving for several years on the City Council, including Mayor for two years, John retired for two years before becoming involved in the landscaping and construction of Marilyn Edgar Park, the city's largest and most prominent park.
Infrastructure improvements – When Frances was voted onto the City Council in 2010, she became part of a council that has made significant decisions. Among those are the renovations to the city's water and sewer systems, which are more than 40 years old and are experiencing a major overhaul.
Water storage – As part of City Council, Frances also recently voted to approve the replacement of the city's water storage tanks. The city broke ground April 11 on the water plant construction, a $1.8 million project that will replace the city's old tanks with 32-foot water storage tanks.
Comprehensive Plan – Both Planchards have been instrumental in the guidance of the city's comprehensive plan, which will guide the city's future in areas such as transportation, economic development, infrastructure, and parks and pathways. Frances will be part of a City Council vote to approve the comprehensive plan initiatives as early as May, while John served on the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee.