PUBLISHED ONLINE OCTOBER 28, 2021   •   VOL. 3, NO. 43

Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
(Click on highlighted link to e-mail the editor)

Here's the latest aerial view of the Amazon distribution center 
under construction in West Smithfield. Notice the large stormwater retention ponds on the left and the spacious landing yard for trucks on the left side of the building. The Johnston County Economic Development Office is providing periodic drone shots of the project's progress.

Chairman Stewart resigning to accept ABC job

Chad Stewart, chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, announced this week he will resign his seat November 30 to accept a job as general manager of the Johnston County Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) system.

The remaining six county commissioners will appoint a replacement for Mr. Stewart, who has one year remaining on his current four-year term. His successor must be a registered Republican presently residing within his district, which encompasses Four Oaks, Bentonville, Brogden, and Princeton.

Mr. Stewart was appointed to the Board of Commissioners in April 2013 following the death of his father, Wade Stewart, who also served as the board's chairman. Chad Stewart won election to full terms on the board in 2014 and 2018. He was chosen to serve as the board's chairman last December.

Johnston's ABC Board, whose members are appointed by the County Commissioners, offered Mr. Stewart the job as its general manager to replace Swade Carroll, who is retiring. Members of the ABC Board are Cathy Clayton, Stephen Richard Upton, and Craig W. Williams, all of Smithfield.

 Holding a degree in business administration from Campbell University, Mr. Stewart, 51, has owned and operated 301 Service Center & Auto Sales in Four Oaks the past 14 years.

VIEW the current roster of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners>



First Baptist calls first woman to be senior pastor

Kristen Tucker will become just the third senior pastor of Smithfield's First Baptist Church over the past 60 years when she steps into the pulpit full-time in January.

She will be the first female to fill that position in the history of the church, which was established in 1832.

Rev. Tucker, 40, is currently serving as an associate pastor at Charlotte's Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church. She earned a Master of Divinity degree in Christian Education from Campbell University in 2012. One of her teachers was Michael Cogdill, Founding Dean of Campbell's Divinity School who has been serving as interim pastor at Smithfield's First Baptist over the past year and a half.

Rev. Tucker is succeeding Lee Colbert, who retired in February 2020 after 35 years as senior pastor. At age 29 in 1985, he succeeded John Ryberg, who had served as pastor from 1960 until his death in 1984.

Before going back to school to work on her divinity degree, Rev. Tucker worked in Housing & Residence Life at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington after earning a master's degree in College Student Development at Appalachian State University. She completed her undergraduate studies at East Carolina University. She grew up in Durham.

Rev. Tucker was officially called to accept the pastorate at First Baptist on Sunday, Oct. 17 when she preached to the congregation. An archived video of that worship service may be viewed on the church's You Tube channel>




Weekly total of new cases down sharply since Sept.

From a peak of more than 1,000 new Johnston County cases weekly in early September, this past week's total was down to 303, the county's Health Department reported on Tuesday.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday reported another encouraging trend: the number of cases per 100,000 Johnstonians over the past 14 days has dropped to 273, putting us in a category with North Carolina counties reporting lowest infection rates. (Neighboring Sampson County registered 387 and Wayne County 343 cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks.)

At 48% of our residents fully vaccinated for COVID-19, Johnston County continues to lag behind the state's 55% and the nation's 58%.  

This week's report from the school system
(posted this morning) showed 72 active cases among students and staff (up slightly from 69 last week) with 228 students and 8 staff members quarantined (279 students and 11 staff were quarantined a week ago).

Schools with the most students in quarantine (as of this morning): McGee's Crossroads Elementary 29, Riverwood Elementary 19, and Corinth-Holders Elementary 18.

VIEW the school system's COVID dashboard with data for all schools>

VIEW the current list of vaccination clinics in Johnston County>

VIEW the current list of testing sites in Johnston County>


Case total
since 3-20 
(last week)
since 3-20 
(last week)

(last week) 

(last week)
100,485: 48%*
5,796,977: 55%*
UNITED STATES 45,705,087
  190,990,750: 58%
WORLDWIDE 245,179,357
total doses given
* Percentage of total population (all ages)
Data provided by: County of Johnston at 4:12 p.m. October 26
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 12:05 p.m. October 27
Johns Hopkins University at 8:22 a.m. October 28

Schools to get three extra November holidays

The Johnston County Board of Education gave unanimous approval during a special session Wednesday afternoon to adding three "wellness days" to traditional school holidays: Friday, Nov. 12 will follow the Veterans Day holiday Nov. 11; Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 23-24 will be added to Thanksgiving holidays Nov. 25-27, giving students that entire week off.

The board's action is line with what surrounding school districts are doing to give students and staff some extra time off following a year and a half of educational disruption because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Tensions are high, nerves are frayed," said board member Kay Carroll, who made the motion to add the November holidays. "I think it would be a good idea to give everybody some down time."

Lynn Andrews voiced concern about shortening an already shortened first semester for high-school students that has been cut in recent years so exams can be given before the Christmas holidays.

She also said the additional holidays will be costly for some households: "When we don't have school, parents miss work so they can stay home with their children."

Terri Sessoms asked about the impact of the three extra holidays on hourly-paid employees, especially school-bus drivers and cafeteria workers. "I don't want any employees to go without pay," she declared. "Everybody needs to be paid," added Mike Wooten.

Chief of Human Resources Brian Vetrano assured the board that school administrators will work out a plan to keep those employees on the job during those student days off, perhaps bringing them in to sanitize buses and cafeterias and providing options for "professional development" training.

For school teachers, Mr. Vetrano said, November 22 will be an optional workday along with two more optional workdays at the end of the 2021-22 term next June to meet a state requirement of 215 work days.


SSS wins again, raises pigskin season record to 6-3

Smithfield-Selma High School's football team is tied for second place in the Quad County 3-A Conference following Friday's 35-14 home-field victory over Wayne County's Charles B. Aycock High. SSS shares a 4-2 conference record with South Johnston and Wilson Fike. (Wilson Hunt is undefeated in conference play.)

The Spartans scored five touchdowns against Aycock: 3 on TD passes from Clevonte Watson to Daniel Dawson (twice) and George Brewer, one on a TD run by Brandon Perry, and one on an interception return by Dawson. SSS gained a total of 241 years rushing and 102 passing in the game.

On defense, leading tacklers for SSS were Jalill Howell, Brandon Perry, and Jeremiah Hatley with 8 apiece; Michael Thompson, Devyn Grant, Joshua Hightower, and Jaylen Stancil with 7 apiece.

Smithfield-Selma's regular-season finale is a road trip to East Wake High at 7 p.m. Friday. Depending on the outcomes of several games this weekend, It appears likely SSS will qualify for a berth in the 3-A playoffs the following week.

A review of the Spartans' season is posted on the MaxPreps website>


SSS students host fair for colleges and careers

Smithfield-Selma High School students enrolled in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) and Career Technical Education (CTE) programs conducted a college and career fair at the school earlier this month. As a class project, 140 AVID and 20 CTE students researched traditional college and trade schools and created presentations to inform their peers about admission criteria, programs offered, and student life. Their presentations covered 68 colleges and universities, including 29 public and private colleges in North CarolinaPictured are students Izabel Evans, Carlie Morris, Yasmin Carranza, and Heidi Pena Esteban. (Story & photo from Smithfield-Selma High School)


Former Jewel Box store on its own lot at 1699 East Booker Dairy Road, Smithfield with more than 30 parking spaces: $569,000.

Fonville Morisey Realty   •   919-669-9235   •


County Commissioners to consider another incentive grant

The Johnston County Board of Commissioners will conduct a public hearing during Monday's 10 a.m. session on an Economic Development Incentive Grant for a proposed 100,000-square-foot "spec building" off US 70 in Wilson's Mills Township that the county would lease "to entice new business to come to Johnston County or to expand existing businesses." At Monday's 6 p.m. session the board will conduct hearings on two requests for business zoning: one in Pine Level Township, the other in Clayton Township.
VIEW the complete agenda for the 10 a.m. session>
VIEW the complete agenda for the 6 p.m. session>

The Smithfield Town Council's November meeting will take place a week later than normal to avoid Municipal Election Day next Tuesday. The council, which normally meets on the first Tuesday of each month, will convene on November 9.


Municipal Election Day Tuesday doesn't include Smithfield

All of Johnston County's towns will be holding elections next Tuesday (Nov. 2) except Smithfield, the only municipality in the county that elects Town Council representatives by residential districts. Because 2020 U.S. Census results were delayed this year, the town has yet to adjust the boundaries of its four council districts based on the new population numbers. As a result, Smithfield was allowed to postpone its municipal election till March as part of next year's Primary Election. The filing period for Smithfield candidates won't till December. Up for election this time are four district seats presently held by Councilmen Marlon Lee, David Stevens, Travis Scott, and David Barbour as well as the mayor's seat held by Andy Moore.

Board of Elections headquarters on South Second Street has been the only site for early voting in municipal elections throughout the county this fall – which explains the campaign placards for candidates in towns other than Smithfield.

Touch-A-Truck returning to Downtown Saturday week

The Junior Women's League of Smithfield will host its sixth annual Touch-A-Truck event on Saturday, Nov. 6. Children will have an opportunity to climb in and explore big rigs, emergency vehicles, construction equipment, and other machines set up in the 200 block of South Third Street Downtown from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free, with a $5 charge for passes to the Ford Companies Playland. Touch-A-Truck's presenting sponsors are Anchor Disposal and McClung's Electrical and Plumbing. The Junior Women's League will be collecting non-perishable food and personal-care items to be placed in its Blessing Boxes throughout Johnston County.



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

NELLIE GRAY ENNIS, 91 – died October 24

LEROY STANLEY CRAIGHEAD JR.,  52 – died October 23

MYRTLE ROSE GODWIN, 100 – died October 22

ANTHONY (TONY) BENNIE LESTER, 61 – died October 21

WESTON WILLIS SANDERS, 82 – died October 18


Highest elevation around here: "Mount Trashmore"

Speaking of Johnston County's phenomenal growth, as we did last week, have you noticed the ridge that continues to rise on the left of Cleveland Road just beyond Swift Creek Road west of town?

It's a big part of the Johnston County Landfill – our "Mount Trashmore," if you will – and it grows higher and higher with each passing year. The garbage and trash buried there is covered by earth after each day's dumping, and perhaps one of these days this "scenic foothill" will be covered with trees, or at least more greenery than what we see there today.

Don't know what the elevation is on top, but no doubt it's the highest piece of land in our neck of the woods. And perhaps the highest ground in all of Johnston County.


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