PUBLISHED ONLINE MAY 16, 2024   •   VOL. 6, NO. 20

Content produced by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
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No surprise: Brad Knott gets U.S. House nomination

Kelly Daughtry’s withdrawal from the race produced the expected result in Tuesday’s Second Primary Election: a resounding vote for Raleigh's Brad Knott as the Republican Party’s nominee for the 13th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the eight-county district that includes all of Johnston, Mr. Knott got 90.77% of votes cast – 19,581 – while 1,991 voted for Ms. Daughtry – many of them, no doubt, having voted before she announced her withdrawal on May 2, citing Donald Trump’s endorsement of Mr. Knott as the reason.

And so goes the race for Congress from a newly drawn district that initially drew 14 Republican candidates but only one Democrat, Frank Pierce of Raleigh, who will be Mr. Knott’s opposition in November’s General Election.

In the March 5 Primary Election, Ms. Daughtry led the Republican candidates with 22,881 votes in the district while Mr. Knott finished second with 15,613. In Johnston County Ms. Daughtry outpolled Mr. Knott 9,212 to 3,452 but fell short of the 30% mark throughout the district that would have given her the nomination on the first try.

Just two other contests were on Johnston County ballots in Tuesday’s Second Primary: Hal Weatherman won nomination as the Republican Party's candidate for lieutenant governor; Dave Boliek won the GOP nomination for state auditor. Both have opposition from Democrats in November.

VIEW complete results from Tuesday’s voting in Johnston County>


Here’s the architect’s rendering of the new high school to be built at Wilson’s Mills.

Wilson’s Mills High’s alumni want new school’s
media center named for Herberta and Jim Uzzle

Johnston’s Board of Education on Tuesday received a request from the Wilson’s Mills High School Alumni Association to name the media center (a.k.a library) at the new high school in memory of Herberta and Jim Uzzle, “who were so instrumental in the educational and character building of students from 1948 through 1969,” the association stated.

"Herberta Uzzle taught all four levels of English along with being the librarian, annual sponsor, drama director, and cheerleader for every student to be successful,” the association noted. "Jim Uzzle was the principal, as well as being a math teacher, basketball and baseball coach for many years, and instrumental in making the school the core of the community.”

Later during Tuesday’s meeting, architects from LS3P Associates of Raleigh presented preliminary plans for the new Wilson’s Mills High School, which will be constructed off Bear Farm Road. The 278,000-square-foot facility will consist of a three-story classroom wing, a two-story portion housing the media center and lunchroom, an auditorium, and both main  and auxiliary gymnasiums.

Groundbreaking for the new school will be held sometime this summer. It’s being financed with county bonds authorized by Johnston’s voters in 2022.

School-board policy requires a 60-day waiting period before the proposed name for the media center can be adopted.

School board votes (sort of) to cull “gender identity"

With “yes” votes recorded for two members who refrained from voting, the Board of Education approved a motion to remove the phrase “gender identity” from a policy on advertising associated with Johnston’s schools.

Terry Tippett, who chairs the board’s Policy Committee, pointed out that the phase already stands in several other policies in compliance with federal rulings that “gender identity” is a “protected class” under prohibitions on sex discrimination. The matter arose Tuesday as the board considered minor modifications to the advertising policy.

Michelle Antoine said “there’s no federal statute” regarding the term “gender identity.” Ronald Johnson said including the phrase in the advertising policy “seems like an odd place to put it."

Katie Cornetto, the school board’s attorney, said “insertion (of the phrase) is advisable” as protection against potential lawsuits, “but it is not required by law." Mr. Tippett said he “couldn’t find a red county without this wording,” referring to other school districts in the state that generally vote Republican.

Even so, Mr. Johnson offered a motion to strike the reference to “gender identity” from the advertising policy. Ms. Antoine seconded his motion. Board Chair Lyn Andrews and Mike Wooten voted “no” while Mr. Tippett and Kevin Donovan did not vote on the matter. Under rules of parliamentary procedure, their silence counted as “yes” votes and the motion passed 4-2. (Board member Kay Carroll was absent.)

Board attorney replaced for Antoine investigation

By another 4-2 vote, this time with Mr. Johnson and Ms. Antoine voting “no,” the board approved employment of Raleigh attorney Joseph Zeszotarski Jr. to handle an investigation into a citizen’s complaint that a company associated with Ms. Antoine has benefitted in the construction of new schools and additions. Chair Andrews said the board’s regular legal counsel, the firm of Poyner Spruill, had asked to be removed from the investigation because of a conflict of interest.

Vape-detection devices for SSS, nine other schools

The board approved a $299,834 contract with low-bidder N.C. Sound of Goldsboro for 116 Halo Vape Detectors to be placed in all of Johnston’s high schools as well as Archer Lodge Middle School and the Choice Plus Academy in Smithfield. SSS High will get 10 of the devices.

In an agenda attachment, Assistant Superintendent David Pearce said the devices "are designed to pick up Vapes, THC, Masking (if a student is trying to cover the scent by spraying Axe body spray, cologne, etc.), Tampering, Keywords/loud noises." An alert will instantly be sent to the app on an administrator's phone, he noted.

A state grant of $337,000 will be used to pay for the devices. “We will add other schools as funds become available,” Dr. Pearce told the board.

Vaping is associated with “e-cigarettes,” which are battery-operated devices that heat liquid to release an aerosol containing nicotine or other substances inhaled by the user. “E-cigarettes are the most common tobacco product used by adolescents,” states the American Heart Association on its website.


More Johnston CTE students earning credentials

The Board of Education received a report Tuesday showing impressive growth in Johnston County’s Career and Technical Education program. Reno Palombit, the school system’s CTE director, said the number of Johnston students in the program earning credentials jumped from 3,515 in 2021-22 to 5,471 in 2022-23, and is on pace to continue climbing during the current academic year as 3,032 students earned credentials during the fall semester.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction says CTE credentials show employers that a student has mastered "in-demand skills" that do not require a college degree.

Mr. Palombit told the school board that Johnston’s students exceeded state benchmarks on five of eight CTE performance indicators this past year while achieving a 99.4% four-year graduation rate.

CTE programs are in place in Johnston’s middle and high schools including SSS and Smithfield Middle.

Dr. Bracy named Central Carolina
“Superintendent of the Year”

Johnston’s Superintendent of Schools Eric Bracy is a candidate for North Carolina’s “Superintendent of the Year” after receiving that honor from the Central Carolina Regional Education Service Alliance.

"Since becoming superintendent of JCPS in 2020, Dr. Bracy has led the school district to substantial and universal academic growth,” states a news release from Johnston County Public Schools. "He understands the direct correlation between staff morale, relationships, workspace conditions, and academic success. These are constantly at the forefront of all initiatives he sets forth.”

Selection of the state’s “Superintendent of the Year” will be announced this fall.


Chris Johnson on N.C. magazine’s “Power 100” list

From County of Johnston Public Information Office

Business North Carolina magazine has again recognized Johnston County Economic Development Office Director Chris Johnson, naming him to its 2024 Power 100 list. It’s the third time Mr. Johnson has made the elite list, having previously been recognized in 2021 and 2022. The Charlotte-based monthly magazine has been published since 1981 and currently reaches more than 122,500 readers.

“The wins keep coming for Johnston County and (Chris) Johnson, who has led economic development efforts here since 2013,” the magazine’s editor wrote, citing industrial product-development efforts Mr. Johnson has been leading in partnership with several private real-estate firms.

County leaders welcomed Mr. Johnson’s statewide recognition. “Though Chris is much too modest to mention it, he is considered one of North Carolina’s most seasoned, most successful, and most sought-after economic development professionals,” said Ed Aldridge, chairman of the Johnston County Economic Development Advisory Board, a 14-member volunteer body that sets and monitors County strategies for job creation, industrial retention, and economic investment.

“There is a long list of reasons Johnston County has done so well in recent years, and Chris is definitely on that list, too. In economic development, there’s no substitute for consistently strong execution,” said Mr. Aldridge, a Clayton resident who has served on the board since 2016.

County Manager Rick Hester said the authenticity and energy level Mr. Johnson brings to his role as the county’s chief business advocate helps distinguish him from counterparts in competing communities. “Chris will take a call, type an email, send a text, or make a visit just about any time of day or night if it means Johnston County creates a job or recruits a company,” Mr. Hester said. “He has a rare mix of technical know-how and people skills that are usually evident in highly successful economic development professionals.”

“The Power List is based on talking with sources, undertaking considerable research, and relying on years of experience covering North Carolina’s business community from this magazine’s unique statewide perspective,” explained Ben Kinney, publisher of Business North Carolina. “It’s particularly impressive to see how some leaders work together to attack key issues, including workforce training, affordable housing, and innovation.”

Chris Johnson (left in photo below), Johnston County’s director of economic development, is pictured with Randy Jones, immediate past chairman, and Ed Aldridge, recently elected chairman, of the county's Economic Development Advisory Board. (Photo from County of Johnston) 

Heritage Center and Ava Museum get Tourism grants

The Johnston County Tourism Authority Board of Directors budget has approved $218,810 in its FY25 budget for new investment in tourism-related capital projects. Funds utilized for the Capital Grant Program are from the 3% room tax paid by visitors staying in local accommodations. The grant recipients are:
• Johnston County Heritage Center – Conservation grant of $10,000 and $7,500 for historical markers.
• Ava Gardner Museum – Conservation grant of $10,000 and $50,000 for a fire-suppression system and exhibit casework.
• Town of Pine Level – Bleachers for Sam Godwin Park: $5,000.

• Town of Archer Lodge – Dog stations for park and town: $5,000.
• Clayton Chamber of Commerce – Interior/exterior paint and mortar repair: $15,000.
• Benson Parks & Recreation – Wireless scoreboards for PK Vyas Park: $12,500.
 Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site – Flowers Farm driving tour: $50,000.
• Town of Kenly Parks & Recreation – Trail repair and infrastructure work: $24,810.
• The Clayton Center – Replacement of carpet in conference rooms: $24,000.
• Clayton Rugby Football Club – Lighting for Wilson’s Mills town park: $5,000.



River Jam series features Journey tribute band Friday 
Trial By Fire, playing the music of the rock band Journey, will perform at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Neuse River Amphitheater on Front Street. Admission will be free of charge. The Town of Smithfield’s Parks & Recreation Department is arranging this monthly concert series.

Shriners’ parade, Spring Fling Fest Downtown Saturday
The Sudan Shriners will be in Smithfield this weekend for their entertaining parade down Market Street at 11 a.m. Saturday with their famous in-your-face street acts including the Animated Animals and the Dunn Clowns. Meanwhile, Downtown merchants will be hosting a Spring Fling Festival on South Third Street – including a farmers’ market and craft vendors – from 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

Medicaid enrollment event at Medical Mall Saturday
UNC Health Johnston is assembling a team of eligibility specialists to help people get health-care coverage through Medicaid. The enrollment event will continue from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. Saturday at Johnston Medical Mall (the former Burlington plant across from the hospital). Attendees may walk-in or make an appointment by calling the N.C. Navigator Consortium at 1-855-733-3711. The first 80 attendees on Saturday will receive a free meal kit. Adults ages 19 through 64 earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line may now be eligible for Medicaid in North Carolina.

County Commissioners to get land-use updates Monday
The County Commissioners will get updates on “Farmland Preservation” from Johnston's Soil & Water Conservation District and “Land Protection” from the Triangle Land Conservancy when they meet at 6 p.m. Monday at the Courthouse.
VIEW the complete agenda for Monday’s meeting>

Town Council to face rezonings, "social district" Tuesday
Public hearings are scheduled at the outset of Tuesday’s meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, on four land-use rezoning requests:
• Rezoning of two tracts totaling 91.73 acres recently purchased by the County of Johnston near the intersection of US 70 Business East and Yelverton Grove Road from business, residential, and agricultural uses to Office and Institutional.
• Rezoning of 2.41 acres at 1558 West Market Street from residential and agricultural uses to a business category.
• Rezoning of 9.61 acres adjacent to West Smithfield’s Adams Street, Hartley Drive, and Durwood Stephenson Parkway to a residential district that allows multi-family and duplex as well as single-family dwellings.
• Conditional rezoning of 163.62 acres on both sides of Durwood Stephenson Parkway between Booker Dairy Road and the US 70 Bypass from residential and business categories to a Planned Unit Development with mixed uses.
Also on Tuesday’s agenda is renewal of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation’s request, first presented last fall, for a “social district” allowing outdoor consumption of alcoholic beverages in public places.
VIEW the complete agenda for Tuesday’s meeting>

Ribbon-cutting for Bryant Walking Trail next Thursday
The ceremony to officially open the recently named Jackie Ray Bryant Walking Trail at Smith-Collins Park is set for 3 p.m. Thursday, May 23 beside the splash pad.


Click on the name to read an obituary, usually posted by the funeral home.




SANDRA (SANDI) DEE EASON, 48 – died May 7

WARREN RUSSELL SWANSON, 55 – died April 13


Students accompanied by parents and teachers and local officials marked last week’s observance of National Bike/Walk/Roll To School Day with a half-mile parade from Civitan Park to South Smithfield Elementary School. (Facebook photo posted by Johnston County Public Schools)


Walk to school? We did that every day, every year!

Nice to see South Smithfield Elementary School observing "National Bike/Walk/Roll To School Day." Held on Wednesday of last week, it was the eighth year the school’s students, teachers, and parents alongside public officials and anyone else who chose to come – pets included – participated in the event.

It was purely ceremonial as folks gathered at Civitan Park beside Second Street and made the short walk to the school. I can’t help but wonder how many of those kids actually walk or bike to school on a daily basis as many of us used to do.

And we continued doing that all the way through the 12th grade! Very few students drove their own vehicles to dear ole Smithfield High. In those days, we had no more than five or six blocks to hoof it before the tardy bell rang.

When plans for the new Wilson’s Mills High School were shown to the Board of Education this week, a question was raised about the proposed parking lot for students: Would 750 spaces be enough?

Speaking of transportation to school, our classmates who lived “out in the country” had no choice but to ride the yellow bus – driven by teen-agers who usually lived near the end of the line.

I’m certainly not advocating a return to that cost-saving practice. But wouldn’t it be nice if more residential development could take place where children could safely walk to school once again?


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