Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted

Smithfield's Patrick Harris, Allen Wellons
seeking new district's N.C. Senate seat

Patrick Harris

Allen Wellons
County Commissioner Patrick Harris, a Republican, and former State Senator Allen Wellons, a Democrat, have filed as candidates for a seat in the N.C. Senate representing a newly drawn district that encompasses Smithfield, northern Johnston County, and all of Nash County.

Both men are Smithfield residents.

The current senator representing District 11 --- Rick Horner of Nash County --- announced on Monday that he would not seek re-election.


Here's a rundown of other local filings through Wednesday of this week (D denotes Democrat, R denotes Republican, asterisk (*) denotes incumbent:

N.C. House of Representatives (one seat per district):
    District 26 --- Donna McDowell White (*) (R), Clayton
                         Justin Tate (R), Monarch Trail, Selma
    District 28 --- Larry C. Strickland (*) (R), Pine Level.

County Commissioner (four seats, by residential district, elected countywide):
    District 1 --- Fred J. Smith Jr. (R), Pritchard Road, Clayton
    District 2 --- Ted G. Godwin (*) (R), Hawkins Road, Selma
    District 4 --- Larry Wood (*) (R), East Church Street, Benson
                        Alan Lamont (D), Everland Parkway, Angier
    District 6 --- Tony Braswell (*) (R), Gor-An Farm Road, Selma

County Board of Education (four seats, at large, nonpartisan):
    Kelly O'Hanlon-Peedin, Hawks Nest Circle, Smithfield

District Court Judge (designated seats):
   Seat 6 --- Paul A. Holcombe (*) (R), Windham Way, Clayton    
   Seat 7 --- Terry F. Rose (R), Smithfield
   Seat 9 --- Frank Wood (*) (R), West Church Street, Benson

Visit the Johnston County Board of Elections website and click "Candidates who have filed" to view the latest list for local as well as statewide offices>

Photo from Centenary Church's weekly TV video

The Advent of Christmas is upon us

On the first Sunday in December, children of Smithfield's Centenary United Methodist Church gathered before Meagan Matthews, Pastor of Congregational Life, to learn about the the newly decorated Chrismon tree behind them. On the third Sunday of Advent --- December 15 --- Centenary's Chancel Choir will present "Appalachian Winter: A Cantata for Christmas" during the 11 o'clock worship hour.

Commissioners hold off approval of extra
funding requested for Johnston's schools

Interim Superintendent of Schools Jim Causby told Johnston's County Commissioners this week that never in his 30-plus years as a school superintendent has he asked a county to come up with additional money for schools once that county's annual budget is done. Until now.

To cover a major shortfall in this year's proposed budget for Johnston County Public Schools, Dr. Causby asked commissioners Monday for $8,874,429 beyond the $67,945,918 appropriated for schools in the 2019-20 county budget adopted in June.

He blamed the shortfall on rising expenditures for salaries and benefits, utilities, worker's comp insurance, charter school payments, cost of financial software, property insurance, and the school system's costly program for "exceptional" children that goes beyond funding provided by the state.

Johnston County, Dr. Causby said, is "an attractive county" for parents of children with all sorts of handicaps. "You're getting a lot of folks who are school shopping and coming into our system," said. An increase of more than 400 "exceptional" children is anticipated in Johnston before the current school year is out, he noted.

Commissioners' Chairman Ted Godwin pointed to another "white elephant in the room" that citizens suspect is a cause of rising school expenditures. "We've got too many people in the Central Office," he declared.

"I don't know if we do or not," the superintendent responded, noting that a number of administrative positions have been eliminated during the current process to pare the school's budget. (He returned to Johnston as interim superintendent in September following the departure of Ross Renfrow. Dr. Causby was the school system's chief from 1994 through 2003.)

The commissioners took no action Monday on Dr. Causby's funding request, preferring to wait until more work is done by the superintendent and his staff to cut local school spending. Meanwhile, the biggest factor affecting the final budget for Johnston's schools is what the state will do about teacher salaries --- unresolved because of a budgetary impasse between Governor Roy Cooper and leaders of the N.C. General Assembly.

"My next move is a reduction in force," Dr. Causby told commissioners --- in other words, school-employee layoffs if additional county appropriations and/or further cuts in expenditures fail to eliminate the $8,874,429 shortfall as things now stand.

READ MORE about Monday's sessions of the County Commissioners>

Board of Education meets next Tuesday (Dec. 10)
• 4:00 p.m. Closed Session
  • 5:00 p.m. Open Session
  • 6:00 p.m. Public Comment
The board meets in the Evander S. Simpson Building, 2320 U.S. 70 Business East, Smithfield. The agenda is usually not posted online until the end of the week prior to each meeting and was not available when this week's Sun was published.
Visit the school system's website to view the agenda in full once it's posted>



Smithfield Council "re-sets" with new
mayor pro tem and one replacement

John Dunn
is mayor pro tem.

Roger Wood
re-joins the council.

Tuesday night's monthly meeting of the Smithfield Town Council was all about its reorganization as a result of last month's Municipal Election.

Roger Wood, one of three elected by the town's voters, took the seat of Emery Ashley, who chose not to seek re-election after eight years on the council.

John Dunn, the top vote-getter in last month's election, was chosen by the council as the new mayor pro tem. He and Steve Rabil, along with Mr. Wood, took oaths of office to begin four-year terms --- the second for Mr. Dunn and Mr. Rabil. Mr. Wood had previously served a term on the council but stepped away two years ago.

Mayor Andy Moore, unopposed in last month's election, took the oath to begin his third two-year term in that office. He previously served 16 years as a councilman.

Emery Ashley (left) receives from Mayor Andy Moore
a proclamation honoring his years of council service.

The mayor read a proclamation he presented to Mr. Ashley in appreciation for his years of service that "have been marked by exemplary dedication to the best interests of the community."

The proclamation continues: "He has worked constantly for improvements to the Town of Smithfield's financial policies and fiscal responsibilities and... has reviewed and deliberated all matters, facts, and proposals before the Council in a fair and sound manner...."

Absent from Tuesday's meeting were Councilmen David Barbour, Marlon Lee, and Travis Scott, who had served as mayor pro tem the past two years (the holder of that position presides at council meetings and represents the town at other events in the mayor's absence).

  real-estate broker


Town to employ Fire Department "control
burns" to destroy Matthew-flooded houses

Town Manager Mike Scott reported to the Smithfield Town Council Monday night that seven houses approved for buy-outs by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be destroyed by Fire Department "control burns."

The first, at 1014 Blount Street, is scheduled for January 4, he said. The others are located at 308 Rosewood Drive, 115 Riverside Drive (pictured), 665 NC 210, 739 NC 210, 808 NC 210, and 845 NC 210. Dates for those burns have not been announced.

FEMA is covering 75% of the cost of acquiring and demolishing the houses with federal disaster funds. The State of North Carolina is providing the other 25%.

Total estimated cost for the Smithfield project is $2.1 million. The town will hold title to the properties after the demolitions are done.

The houses were damaged extensively by the record-setting flood that followed Hurricane Matthew three years ago.