Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
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Of 151,767 Johnston voters, 26,000+ are done

The exact number of early voters reported by Johnston County's Board of Elections as of midday Wednesday was 26,176. That includes 10,124 registered Republicans, 8,628 Democrats, and 7,348 Unaffiliated voters – in all, 13,402 females and 11,947 males.

The total of Johnston County's registered voters currently stands at 151,767. That's up from more than 142,000 registered for the 2020 Presidential Election when more than 110,800 Johnstonians cast ballots. The number of registered voters will continue to rise since the unregistered may sign up and cast ballots at the "one-stop" early-voting sites, which remain open all this week 8 a.m. till 7:30 p.m., closing at 3 p.m. Saturday (Smithfield's spot is the First Batist Church Ministry Center beside East Johnston Street.)
VIEW the latest Board of Elections report on early voting in Johnston County>

A couple of reminders if you're waiting till Tuesday to mark your ballot:

New polling place – North Smithfield Precinct 2 is moving from the Smithfield Church of God to Smithfield Middle School where North Smithfield 1 has been voting. South Smithfield voting remains at South Smithfield Elementary School. East Smithfield Precinct voting remains at the First Baptist Church Ministry Center.
VISIT N.C. Board of Elections site to find the precinct for your residential address>

Besides the election of federal, state, and local representatives and judicial officers, this fall's ballot also includes a Johnston County school-bond referendum.


• A new high school in the Wilson's Mills area school administrators say would relieve overcrowding at six high schools: Smithfield-Selma, Clayton, Cleveland, Corinth Holders, North Johnston, and South Johnston.
• A 23-classroom addition to Cooper Academy, a Clayton elementary school.
• A new elementary school in the Swift Creek area south of Clayton.
• An addition to Benson Elementary School.
• Safety and security upgrades, ADA improvements, and HVAC upgrades at schools throughout the county.
• A variety of improvement projects at Clayton High, Cleveland Elementary, Cleveland High, Four Oaks Elementary, Glendale-Kenly Elementary, the Innovation Academy in Smithfield (new windows), McGee's Crossroads Elementary, Micro Elementary, Princeton High, Riverwood schools, Selma Elementary, Smithfield Middle (HVAC), Smithfield-Selma High (tennis courts), South Smithfield Elementary (HVAC), South Johnston High, West Clayton Elementary, West Johnston High, and Wilson's Mills Elementary (HVAC).


Town Council thanks retiring Police Chief Powell

Smithfield's Chief of Police Keith Powell is retiring at the end of November after 30 years of service with the town's Police Department. Members of the Town Council praised him for his work in the closing moments of Tuesday's monthly meeting.
"He has truly made Smithfield better," Councilman Travis Scott declared.
"He'll knock on any door and talk to the residents," added Councilman Marlon Lee, whose district includes African-American neighborhoods in East Smithfield. "You've led by example," Mr. Lee continued. "You are a community policeman."
Chief Powell began his service with the town as an officer assigned to newly annexed West Smithfield. He later served as a resident officer with the Smithfield Housing Authority. He was promoted to chief of police in 2016 to succeed Mike Scott, who was elevated to his present post as town manager.
A public reception to honor Chief Powell is planned for the afternoon of his last day on the job – Wednesday, Nov. 30.


Contracts OK'd for Smith-Collins trail, splash-pad enlargement

The council approved two contracts for projects funded by a $535,000 state grant. J.P. Edwards, Inc. will design and build an eight-foot-wide concrete walking trail around Smith-Collins Park and the town's nearby retention pond for $407,416 – a price that includes an add-on for drain piping beside Martin Luther King Drive in front of the splash pad. Carolina Recreation and Design will be paid $129,902.75 to expand the splash pad opened last year. The total for the projects exceeds the state grant amount by $2,318.75, which the town will cover from contingency funds.

Council gives its blessing to Neuse River Trail Feasibility Study

The council adopted a resolution supporting a recently completed study showing options for extending the Raleigh-to-Clayton greenway trail beside the Neuse to Smithfield. Adrian O'Neal, the county's parks, greenways, and open space coordinator, said the resolution requires no financial commitment from the town at this time but does provide leverage for grants the county will seek for the project.
VIEW details of the study including route options on the county's website>

Two new pickup trucks ordered for Parks and Recreation

The council approved an expenditure of $89,697.84 to purchase two Ford F-250 pickup trucks for the Parks and Recreation Department. Gary Johnson, the department's director, said the purchases were budgeted this past fiscal year but couldn't be made because of COVID-related supply issues; and he said there's no guarantee the trucks will be delivered during the current fiscal year. The purchases are being made through a state contract with Piedmont Trucks of Greensboro.

Council approves permits for a couple of special events

An organization named Women on the Move got permission to hold "A Day of Thanks" event from noon till 5 p.m. this Saturday at Smith-Collins Park. At Councilman Marlon Lee's request, the council authorized it to be classified as an annual event held on the first Saturday in November, eliminating a permit request from year to year. Also approved at Tuesday's meeting was a permit for Walker Auto & Truck to hold an Employee Appreciation Field Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday at Community Park.

Town puts up $500 to feed SSS football team during playoffs

In appreciation of a successful season by the Smithfield-Selma High School football team, the council authorized a donation up to $500 to pay for pre-game meals for the squad if the team advances in the state 3-A playoffs beyond this week. The council was told that funds have already been raised to cover the cost of meals prior to this Friday's opening-round game at the Spartans' stadium here. SSS finished the regular season with a record of 9-1, its best showing in more than 20 years.

"Trusted by families since 1977"
840 S. Bright Leaf Blvd. • 919-934-7164 •

Marcia Armstrong is N.C. State Bar's president

Story & photo from N.C. State Bar's website

Smithfield attorney Marcia H. Armstrong was sworn in as the 88th president of the North Carolina State Bar at the agency's annual dinner October 20.

A partner in The Armstrong Law Firm, she has been a board-certified specialist in family law since 1989. She practices law with her husband, Lamar; her son, Lamar III; her daughter, Eason Keeney; and her son-in-law, Daniel Keeney.

She is past president of the state chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which is recognized as one of the top family-law associations in the country. She is past president of the Johnston County Bar Association and the 11th Judicial District Bar.

In 2011 she received the Sara H. Davis Excellence Award from the State Bar's Board of Legal Specialization. In 2010 she was recognized as a Citizen Lawyer by the N.C. Bar Association and has served on the association’s Board of Governors and as chair of the Family Law Section.

In 1997 she was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the N.C. Bar Association for her service to the Family Law Section. In 1995 she received the Gwyneth B. Davis Award from the N.C. Association of Women Attorneys.

Mrs. Armstrong was a member of the N.C. State Bar Council from 2011 to 2019, during which time she served on many committees and was chair of the Legislative Committee and the Opioid Summit Special Committee and a vice chair of the Grievance Committee.

She earned her bachelor’s degree from Salem College and her Juris Doctorate from the Wake Forest University School of Law.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Not the same as the N.C. Bar Association, the N.C. State Bar is the government agency responsible for regulating the state's legal profession.


County closes its only walk-in COVID testing site

The Radeas testing site at 601-B North Eighth Street in Smithfield was closed "permanently" on Monday, which means the Johnston County Public Health Department is no longer providing walk-in testing for COVID-19.
Residents can still acquire at-home test kits at the Health Department or seek testing at retail pharmacies or private doctors' offices.

COVID-19 vaccines are still available to the public and will be distributed at the Health Department on a walk-in basis and are free regardless of health insurance or immigration status. Vaccinations are available Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Tuesdays from 9 to 6.

For more information visit or contact the Health Department by phone at 919-989-5200.

October was "bone dry" – till the very last day!

October's rainfall measured by Cornell Cox at his Backyard Weather Station in South Smithfield amounted to just 0.88 of an inch, and 0.62 inches of that fell Monday evening, the last day of the month. "After midnight (Monday) we got 0.70 inches to start November," Mr. Cox reported. Through October, our year-to-date total is 35.58 inches. Normal annual rainfall for this region is just under 48 inches.


Johnston's jobless rate dropped to 3% in September

The number of Johnstonians holding jobs rose from 103,215 in August to 103,853 in September while the number filing for unemployment benefits dropped from 3,720 to 3,191, according to the latest report from the N.C. Department of Commerce. That reduced the county's jobless rate from 3.5% in August to 3.0% in September (the statewide rate was 3.3%). Johnston's rate in September 2021 was 3.6%.

Smithfield-Selma students receiving National Merit Scholarship recognition are (left to right) Catherine Cepin, Priscilla Nutt, Sophia Urzi, and Jude Reece. (SSS photo)

SSS senior Jude Reece: National Merit semi-finalist

Smithfield-Selma High School's Jude Reece is a semi-finalist in the 2023 National Merit Scholarship Program – one of only 16,000 semi-finalists nationwide. These academically talented high-school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for 7,250 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million.

Jude qualified by earning the highest possible score on the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which is the first step for program entrants. He will find out if he is a finalist in mid-February.

In addition, SSS seniors Catherine Cepin, Priscilla Nutt, and Sophia Urzi have been named Commended Students in this year's National Merit Scholarship competition. About 34,000 so-named students throughout the nation are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise. Although they will not continue in the 2023 competition for National Merit Scholarship awards, Commended Students place among the top 50,000 students who entered the 2023 competition.

All four seniors are enrolled in the Interntional Baccalaureate program at SSS.



Smithfield-Selma squeaks by East Wake, 22-19

The game's outcome wasn't decided until the closing seconds of play.

SSS had a 14-0 lead at halftime, but East Wake came back with a couple of touchdowns after intermission to cut that lead to 14-13 – a tie averted thanks to a botched extra-point attempt. The visiting Warriors were driving again near midfield in the fourth quarter when the Spartans recovered a fumble, drove downfield for a TD, and added a two-point conversion for a 22-13 lead.

On the first play from scrimmage after that, East Wake scored on a long pass but failed to convert a two-point attempt after the touchdown, leaving the score at 22-19.
Then, the Warriors recovered an onside kick as time was winding down, but the Spartans' defense stopped the final drive to seal the win.

A pair of seniors accounted for the SSS touchdowns: Jalill Howell scored two, Gerard Sanders Jr. one. Sanders led the Spartan's rushing attack with 116 yards on 24 carries; Howell ran for 54 yards on eight carries. Seniors Michael Thompson Jr. and Joshua Hightower led the defense with eight tackes apiece.

The SSS victory produced a 9-1 regular-season record. As a result, they'll host a first-round game in the state 3-A playoffs versus Wilson Hunt at 7 p.m. this Friday at Charles Tucker Stadium. The Spartans defeated Hunt 21-17 on September 23.

SSS is seeded 12th in the Eastern bracket of the state 3-A playoffs. Charles B. Aycock High – the only team to beat SSS this season – is seeded 5th in the Spartans' bracket. If both teams win this Friday, they'll meet again next week on Aycock's field at Pikeville.


Last week's football scores for other Johnston County schools
Clayton (6-4)                 21
Cleveland (10-0)           49
Corinth Holders (3-7)   35
Garner                           6
South Johnston (5-5)   14
West Johnston (4-6)      7
Princeton (9-1)             48
North Johnston (3-7)     6
For more information about football and other sports
at each of our high schools, search>

The roster posted on MaxPreps for the Neuse Charter volleyball team includes Whitney Kate Moore, Lyndsy Parrish, Clare Harris, Julia Bridges, Ella Malzahn, Leah Ham, Olivia Malzahn, Leah Sheppard, Cayley Cochran, Olivia Sheppard, Leah Eaves, Harper Flowers, Mackenzie Ward, Lydia Register, and Haley Stevens. The team's head coach is Jennifer Cochran.

Neuse Charter volleyball gets to third round of playoffs

The Cougars' girls volleyball team lost to Cape Hatteras in the third round of the state 1-A playoffs last Thursday to end the season with a record of 23-4. The Cougars were Carolina 1-A Conference champs again this year with an unblemished 10-0 league record.

Basketball season for both the boys and girls teams opens Monday at Southern Wake Academy, followed by home games on Tuesday against American Leadership Academy-Johnston.



Annual Touch-A-Truck for youngsters this Saturday

The Junior Women's League invites youngsters of all ages to the 7th edition of its interactive fund-raiser from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in Downtown Smithfield. Admission is free to all comers but a $5 donation buys unlimited access to bounce houses and other activities, including a sandpit for children's play, games, and face painting. Trucks big and small will be on hand for children to climb into and onto, including fire trucks, tractors, construction equipment, "and other cool rigs." Mascots of college and professional sports teams will be on hand as well.

Daylight Saving Time ends another season Sunday

It's the first Sunday in November, when our timing devices must be set back one hour to Eastern Standard Time (remember "Spring Forward, Fall Back"). DST will return the second Sunday in March.

County Commissioners will meet twice on Monday

The board's 10 a.m. agenda includes action requested by staff on project budgets to expand the county's water-treatment plant as well as its new sewage-treatment plant already under construction. Commissioners will also be asked to approve a contract for the next round of real-estate revaluation, scheduled for 2025.
VIEW the complete agenda for the morning meeting>
The 6 p.m. agenda includes public hearings on three land-use rezoning requests – in fast-growing Cleveland, Pleasant Grove, and Wilders Townships.
VIEW the complete agenda for the evening session>

School board's monthly meeting put off till Nov. 22

Johnston's Board of Education normally meets on the second Tuesday of the month. Because next Tuesday (Nov. 8) is Election Day, the board has delayed this month's meeting until Tuesday, November 22.



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

JERRY McRAE, 76 – died November 1

JOY ANN MORRIS MARTIN, 60 – died October 30

KAREN LaBROT BORSOS, 79 – died October 25



Johnston among 19 of N.C.'s "dirty air" counties

Got a news release from NCDOT the other day that nearby Lee County (Sanford) as well as Onslow (Jacksonville) and Rockingham (Eden-Reidsville) will join 78 other N.C. counties no longer required to conduct emission tests with annual motor-vehicle inspections. That means just 19 of the state's 100 counties still require those tests, and Johnston is one of them.

Why is that? Because our pollution measurements continue to put up a caution flag about the cleanliness of the air we breathe.

And when you look at the list of those 19 counties, they're located in the state's metropolitan areas where more and more people reside and many more vehicles are on the roads spewing their gasoline-fueled exhausts into the atmosphere.

In our area those counties are Durham, Franklin, and Wake as well as Johnston. Elsewhere they're located around Charlotte, the Triad (Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem), Fayetteville, Wilmington, and Asheville – regions experiencing sprawling suburban development.

For our area and the others included in the "Dirty Nineteen," electric-powered vehicles can't come soon enough as it's plainly evident the residential growth we're experiencing isn't going to be stopped in the foreseeable future, regardless of what our County Commissioners and other local governments may say they're doing to "control it."



Red-kettle bell ringers are needed very soon!

Here's the word from Lynn Harloe Ragsdale, vice president of the Board of Advisors, Salvation Army Smithfield:

The Salvation Army's Red Kettle has become an icon in American Christmas Culture. As the major annual fund-raiser for Johnston and Harnett counties, our red kettles fund assistance to needy families and individuals in our community.  Volunteering your time to ring bells will save approximately $86 per kettle per day.

Each church or group volunteering is asked to adopt a kettle FOR A DAY. This consists of approximately 5 volunteers ringing 2 hours each or you are free to develop your own volunteer schedule to cover the day.

If your group is interested in assisting this worthwhile service to the community please call Major David Craddock at 919-934-9102 to receive a date and then sign up your volunteers! 


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