What are your criteria for filling the job?

In hiring the North Carolina School Boards Association last week to handle the search for a new superintendent of Johnston County Public Schools, the county's Board of Education ordered both a "Community Survey" and a "Staff Survey" to get "direct input" from citizens as well as school employees "to help shape the search process" and set forth "the qualities and characteristics desired in the next JCPS superintendent."

The board set a deadline of March 9 for candidates to apply for the job. The goal is to fill the position by the start of the new fiscal year July 1 --- and before the 2020-21 school year begins in late August.

The community and staff surveys must be completed by February 26, with results to be compiled, summarized, and presented by the School Boards Association at the Board of Education's regularly scheduled meeting on March 10.

Here's the link to the online Community Survey:

In addition, local groups and organizations are invited to submit written statements "regarding the leadership qualities they consider important in the next superintendent." Those statements should be submitted no later than February 26 to Allison Schafer, general counsel and director of policy for the School Boards Association, by mail to NCSBA, P.O. Box 97877, Raleigh, N.C. 27624, via e-mail to, or by fax to 919-841-4020.

Meanwhile, former North Johnston High School Principal Ben Williams --- one of three "area superintendents" working in the Central Office for Johnston's schools --- has been appointed by the Board of Education to serve as interim superintendent.

Commentary about the current school situation on the OBSERVATIONS page>

212 E. Church Street  •  919-934-1121 

Here's how the building appeared this week after standing vacant for more than 20 years. It was named for the Scottish governor of the colonial Province of North Carolina when Johnston County was established in 1746.

Who will revive this historic landmark?

It opened as a brand-new hotel in 1937 --- in the midst of the Great Depression --- and remained in business until the coming of Interstate 95 in the early 1960s took East Coast travelers away from Downtown Smithfield.

It got new life in 1963 when the Town of Smithfield converted the property into its Municipal Building.

It was vacated in 1998 when Smithfield's present-day Town Hall opened nearby, and then sold at auction to a group of local businessmen for redevelopment. But it has remained vacant ever since.

Now, the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation (DSDC) has secured an option to purchase the property for $350,000 from its current owners (Fourth Street Associates, LLC, headed by local accountant Lee Jackson) "and will either exercise the option or assign it to a third party," reads the DSDC "Request for Proposals for the Rehabilitation of the Gabriel Johnston Hotel" that was issued this past week.

"Qualified development teams must have historic preservation experience," reads the Request for Proposals (RFP). "Teams must include an experienced architect, general contractor, and financial consultant."

"The vision for this site is the development of the currently vacant building into an active use that provides commercial and/or residential uses" and "complements Downtown Smithfield's historic character and vision," the RFP continues. "The DSDC has designated a number of uses as community preferences for the project, including hotel rooms, market-rate residential, retail, and restaurant."

The deadline for developers' submissions is February 14. For more information, contact DSDC Executive Director Sarah Edwards by phoning 919-934-0887 or e-mailing Additional documentation for the project may be found on the DSDC website>

real-estate broker


Councilman nixes proposal in Town Plan

On page 23 of Volume 2 of the proposed Smithfield Town Plan currently before the Town Council is a proposal to allow "accessory dwelling units" (ADUs) --- called "granny flats" by planning professionals --- in Smithfield's residential zoning districts.

That includes "garage apartments" as well as free-standing structures like so-called "tiny houses" that presently are only allowed in Smithfield's commercial zoning districts with a special-use permit.

This example of a "granny flat" appears in the "Comprehensive Growth Management Element" of the proposed Smithfield Town Plan.
Councilman David Barbour wants none of that. "I don't want to make that a policy ... I want it taken out," he declared during a special council session held last week in part to review the Town Plan yet to be adopted.

He said he fears "too much potential abuse" if ADUs are encouraged in Smithfield.

Planning Director Stephen Wensman said such units are "a trending topic" across the nation as more folks want to provide separate housing close by their residences for aging parents or adult children.

But he agreed to remove the proposal from the Town Plan prior to its adoption by the council, perhaps at its February meeting.

Near the close of the "granny flats" discussion, Town Attorney Bob Spence said "I don't think there's a tool shed in town that's not in violation" of existing zoning rules.

The proposed Town Plan was developed by the town's planning staff assisted by Stewart, a Raleigh-based consulting firm, after several months of meetings of a citizens' steering committee, two "well attended" public workshops, and an online survey --- all serving as "the basis for many of the recommendations and goals within this plan," notes the document's introduction.

To review the entire Town Plan, follow this link to the town's website>


Johnston County NAACP honors
Allen Wellons at MLK breakfast

The Johnston County NAACP chapter presented its Public Service Award to Smithfield attorney Allen Welllons during its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast.

Mr. Wellons was recognized for his "untiring and exemplary service ensuring political, educational, economic, and social justice" for Johnston's citizens.

"I am grateful for this award," he responded. "It is a capstone to the work I have done over a 45-year career in law, agriculture, and community service." He added: "We must always recognize the plight of our fellow citizens and work together to ensure there is compassion, care, and concern for the lives of every single citizen."

Mr. Wellons is a former state senator who's seeking this year to return to the N.C. General Assembly as the senator from newly drawn District 11, which includes Smithfield and northern Johnston County as well as all of Nash County. Running as a Democrat, he has opposition in the March 3 Primary Election from
Albert R. Pacer of Creech-Johnson Road, Zebulon.

Meanwhile, three Republican candidates are competing for their party's nomination March 3: County Commissioner Patrick Harris of Smithfield, State Representative Lisa Stone Barnes of Spring Hope, and Dennis Nielsen of Middlesex.

Recent deaths of young people prompt call for action

A group of citizens concerned about "several recent and unfortunate deaths" of young Johnstonians will meet at 6 p.m. next Monday (Jan. 27) to address a need for "programs, mentors, and outreach" to prevent "those tragedies." They're calling their effort "I'm Committed."

Monday's meeting will be held in the Reginald Ennis Pavilion on Smithfield's East Massey Street. That's the former gymnasium of Johnston Central High School that served African-American students prior to school integration in 1969.

Members of the organizing committee include attorney Antoan Whidbee, District Court Judge Addie Harris Rawls, Town Councilman Marlon Lee, ECU grad student and local mentor Antonio Blake, coach and local mentor Travis Holder, and Smithfield-Selma High educator Jerry Harper.

Among the recent deaths spurring the group to action was the fatal shooting in Selma earlier this month of Malik Shepherd of Smithfield --- a popular SSS athlete.

"Trusted by families since 1977"

  840 S. Bright Leaf Blvd. 919-934-7164 •

New JoCo Visitors Guide touts "agritourism"

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau's official Visitors Guide for 2020 encourages folks to "see what's growing in JoCo" through several "agritourism" venues.

"Since 2004 the Visitors Bureau has been engaged in the development of agritourism in the county as a vehicle for farmers to sustain their farms by opening up to visitors," explained Donna Bailey-Taylor, the bureau's CEO. As a result, she added, "more and more small farms are offering local produce, products, and on-farm experiences."

A good place to start your tour of Johnston County agriculture is the Tobacco Farm Life Museum on US 301 North in Kenly. Outside the main exhibit hall is a re-assembled "farmstead" with a tobacco barn, farm house, and a one-room school.

Other places listed under "Agritourism" are Banks Miniature Horse Farm on Peele Road, Clayton; Creekside Farm on Pine Tree Road, Selma; and Smith's Nursery and Strawberry Farm on Sanders Road, Benson. "Farm Fun & Corn Mazes" include Boyette Family Farms on Loop Road, Clayton; Lazy O Farm on Packing Plant Road, Smithfield; and Sonlight Farms on Bunn Road, Kenly.

For more information, open the 2020 JoCo Visitors Guide online>


Today (Thursday) from 6 to 8 p.m. in the West Johnston High School auditorium.
The Johnston County Planning Department will present proposed changes to the county's Land Development Code related to residential development, with time set aside for questions and comments from the public at large.

This Sunday (Jan. 26) from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Gateway Event Center in Clayton. Candidates for statewide as well as local offices are invited to attend. Principal host is the Johnston County Democratic Party. Light refreshments will be served.

Saturday, Feb. 8 at The Farm at 42, Lynch Road north of Selma, 7 to 11 p.m. This fund-raiser for the agency that shelters victims of domestic violence will feature the North Tower Band, buffet dinner, and auction. Tickets are $85 a person and must be purchased by Feb. 1. "Cocktail / Black Tie" attire optional. For more information, phone Harbor at 919-938-3566 or e-mail


Each week we post links to obituaries about persons who have died during the past week. We monitor the websites of local funeral homes to compile our list, and we welcome links provided by readers to obituaries of persons with Smithfield connections who have died outside our immediate area....



GRACE PARNELL WORLEY, 79 - died Jan. 18

CHESTER SANDERS SR., 63 - died Jan. 18