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The people who walk in darkness will see a great light," sayeth the prophet Isaiah whose words were put to music in Handel's beloved Messiah. This creative light display in the front yard of a residence on First Street isn't exactly Biblical, but the white lights on a dark December night do add something magical to the season. By the way, astronomical winter arrives at 10:27 p.m. next Thursday, Dec. 21.


Flurry of school board candidates; no incumbents?

With the filing deadline coming up at noon tomorrow (Friday), five candidates had filed as of 5 p.m. Wednesday for seats on the Johnston County Board of Education. None of them are incumbents whose seats are up for election in 2024.

Those seats are now held by Lyn Andrews, Kay Carroll, Ron Johnson, and Mike Wooten. Only Mr. Carroll has publicly stated that he will not seek re-election.

Candidates had filed by the end of the day Wednesday for just two of the four seats. Three of them are competing to represent newly established District 4: Ken Ramey of David Circle, Angier; David Spain of Wyndham Drive, Garner; and Emily Burke of Kasey Dee Circle, Garner. Competing to represent District 7 are Jeff Sullivan of Wedgewood Place, Clayton and David Marshburn of Robertson Street, Clayton.

For the first time, candidates for Johnston's Board of Education must run for specific seats according to their place of residence yet continue to be chosen by voters countywide. They also continue to run without regard to political party affiliation.

Others who filed this past week with the Johnston County Board of Elections:
• Republican Bennett Jones of Hill Row Lane, Clayton for the District 1 seat on the County Board of Commissioners now held by Fred Smith, who has stated he will not seek re-election.
• Republican Caleb Johnson of Lowell Mill Road, Selma for the District 2 seat on the Board of Commissioners. He is challenging incumbent Republican Ted Godwin of Hawkins Road, Selma who earlier filed for re-election.
• Republican incumbent April Stephens of NC 50 North, Benson for re-election to the District 4 seat on the Board of Commissioners.
• Republican Tim Little of Evans Road, Princeton, joining Republican Bill Stovall of Little Creek Church Road, Clayton in the running for the District 6 seat on the Board of Commissioners in place of incumbent Tony Braswell, who also has stated he will not seek re-election.
• Republicans Matthew Wood of Lightfoot Drive, Clayton and Kevin Terrett of Channel Drop Drive, Clayton for the District 26 seat in the N.C. House now held by Republican Donna McDowell White of Clayton who earlier filed for re-election.


Sale of club house yields big gifts for 3 non-profits

The former home of the Smithfield Woman's Club on North Second Street – vacant since the Junior Woman's Club was disbanded a decade ago – has been sold for renovation as a residence, with proceeds from the sale distributed to the Johnston Health Foundation Hospice Fund, the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield, and the Johnston County Arts Council.
READ the full story, including the history of the 92-year-old structure and the two women's organizations that made it their home, on the FEATURE PAGE>


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


County pays 84 employees more than $100,000

A recently revised list of annual salaries paid to 1,269 full-time employees of the County of Johnston shows that 84 of them are now paid at least $100,000. Another 134 are paid at least $90,000.

Continuing the breakdown, another 79 are paid at least $80,000, another 192 at least $70,000, another 283 at least $60,000, and another 255 at least $50,000.

At the top of the county's list is Dr. Marilyn Pearson, a physician whose salary as director of the Public Health Department is $319,786. County Manager Rick Hester's salary is $262,600.

Salaries of the county's two elected full-time employees are $188,222 for Sheriff Steve Bizzell and $129,040 for Register of Deeds Craig Olive.

Among CEOs elsewhere among Johnston's local governing units, Superintendent of Schools Eric Bracy is paid $249,019 annually while Clayton's Town Manager Richard Cappola receives $197,236 and Smithfield's Town Manager Mike Scott $134,513.

VIEW the complete list of individual salaries paid by the County of Johnston>



Recipients of this year's Living Legend Award are Ethel Armwood, Ruth High, and Bruce Bunn. (Photo from Johnston County Public Schools)

Three added to schools' list of "Living Legends"

During Tuesday's monthly meeting, the Johnston County Board of Education recognized Ethel Breeden Armwood, Ruth Edwards High, and Bruce Bunn as this year's recipients of the school system's Living Legend Award, presented to former educators who were dedicated to the children they taught and left a legacy of influential teaching styles.

This is the 20th year of honoring "Living Legends of Johnston County Public Schools."

Mrs. Armwood worked 30 years as a K-3 teacher at Pine Level Elementary School, and later returned as a substitute following retirement. She is a graduate of Fayetteville State University.

Mrs. High served the district in many ways, primarily as a lead teacher for kindergarten through the sixth grade as well as director of the school system's AIG program for Academically and Intellectually Gifted students. She is a graduate of Meredith College where she received the Alumni Award from the Department of Psychology and also of East Carolina University and N.C. State University.

Mr. Bunn served Johnston's schools as a middle-school teacher of social studies, interim principal, assistant principal, and finally principal at West Clayton Elementary. After retirement, he returned to the system as a temporary administrator, serving as an interim principal and assisting Human Resources. He's a graduate of Appalachian State and East Carolina universities.

The three will have their names added to the list of educators that's on display inside the Living Legends Room of the Evander S. Simpson Building at 2320 US 70 Business East in Smithfield.

Schools going remote to offset teacher shortage

The Board of Education Tuesday voted 6-1 to approve a $2,068,840 contract with a Chicago-based enterprise named Elevate K-12 to provide a "virtual platform for live teaching" during the school year's second semester to fill gaps left by a larger-than-usual number of teacher vacancies.

Interim Human Resources Director Linda Edmundson told the board that Johnston's schools had 151.5 teacher vacancies as of November 1 – up from 90.5 a year earlier. To make up for the shortage, "this is the best alternative we have right now," Ms. Edmundson said.

Under terms of the contract, she explained, Elevate K-12 will provide "high quality" N.C.-certified teachers offering live instruction via the Internet for a maximum of 60 class periods at middle schools, 72 at high schools, and 35 for Exceptional Children at schools to be determined. Johnston County Public Schools will provide a classroom manager for each instructional session, she said.

Board member Kevin Donovan cast the only vote against the contract. "Next year we won't have this opportunity," he said, because federal ESSER funds being used to pay for it won't be available. (ESSER stands for Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief – adopted by Congress in response to the COVID pandemic.)

Superintendent Eric Bracy said he hopes the system's recruitment efforts will fill many of the teaching vacancies by then. But if not, the board should be prepared to consider cuts in other programs to come up with funding sufficient to continue the virtual teaching service, he advised.

Board re-elects its chair and vice chair with a split vote

The board voted 5-2 to re-elect Lyn Andrews as its chair and Terry Tippett as vice chair for another year. Negative votes came from Michelle Antoine and Ron Johnson. Kay Carroll, Kevin Donovan, and Mike Wooten supported the re-election of Ms. Andrews and Mr. Tippett, who voted for themselves.

overlooking pond
in South Smithfield

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Smithfield's Christmas Parade starts at 7 p.m. today

It begins at the corner of Market and Sixth streets and continues westward through the heart of Downtown to Second Street.

Meanwhile, Santa's Workshop in the small park beside Town Hall will be "in business" this evening (Thursday) and Friday and again Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of next week (Dec. 21-23).

To make a reservation for a visit with The Jolly Ol' Elf, follow this link>

(Town of Smithfield Facebook photo)

"Cookies & Coco" in neighborhoods next Thursday & Friday

The Town of Smithfield's Parks & Recreation and Police departments are joining forces to celebrate the holiday season by serving hot chocolate and cookies in a couple of neighborhoods next week: on Thursday (Dec. 21) – 10 to 11 a.m. on Skyland Drive, 11 a.m till noon on Kay Drive; Friday (Dec. 22) – 10 to 11 a.m. on Furlong Drive; 11 a.m. till noon on Finny Street.

Two books by Gary Ridout make great gifts!

Breathing – Dark and Hairy

is a book full of suspense, magic, and fantasy
for middle-school to adult-age readers.  $10

James J. Bug
written by Gary and his grandchildren, Jonah and Ava Ridout,
for pre-school to 4th-grade children – about the adventures
of a Rhinoceros Beetle with magical flair!  $10

Book Signings at the Johnston County Arts Coop studio
at 619 S. Third Street in Smithfield:
Saturday, December 16, 1:00-3:00 pm
Wednesday, December 20, 11:00-1:00 pm



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

GLORIA SANDERS DUBLIN, 86 – died December 11

SUSAN GALE GLITHERO, 68 – died December 10

CHARLES ALFRED GORDON, 91 – died December 7

KENNETH (KENNY) RAY STARLING, 59 – died December 7

NORMA LEE KISTLER GRANT, 85 – died December 4



Faded lane lines make driving more dangerous

A reader recently complained about fading lane markings on Bright Leaf Boulevard and Market Street.

All the lane markings on Market and 301 are NCDOT’s responsibility," Town Manager Mike Scott confirmed in an e-mail to the Weekly Sun. "We had them re-striping some of the intersections downtown last spring."

But nothing more since then.

What's worse are the vanishing lane markings on Outlet Center Drive, which ought to be the responsibility of the N.C. Department of Transportation but are the town's under an agreement made some years ago involving the poorly designed configuration of the streets connecting East Market Street to the outlets.

The faded lane lines are bad enough. The expanding potholes make things even worse. Not a good thing for visitors to the numerous establishments out there.


Riders of this miniature train down Market Street during last Thursday's tree-lighting festivities likely weren't aware of its ties to the town's history. Market Street is as wide as it is today because a real railroad ran down the middle of the street in the late 19th Century! (Downtown Smithfield Facebook photo)

It was built from Goldsboro as the Midland North Carolina R.R. in 1882 and was envisioned as a competitor for the North Carolina Railroad built across the state several miles north of Smithfield before the Civil War. But alas, the venture failed and the Midland never made it across the Neuse River here.

The Market Street tracks were removed when the north-south rail line still in service today was built in 1886. Even so, the connection to Goldsboro remained in place through the 1920s, and there's a remnant of that track crossing Malta Street in front of Coor Farm Supply just east of the Market Street underpass.

Too bad we've never seen a photo of the real thing coming down our main street.

But the Heritage Center does have a collection of Sanborn Insurance maps from that era showing not only the track down Market Street (also identified then as "Rail Road Street") but also the purposes of the commercial buildings there at the time, most of which have been replaced by the Downtown structures we see today.


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