Voters on Tuesday returned two incumbents to the Johnston County Board of Education.
But veteran board members Peggy Smith and Mike Wooten weren’t the top vote-getters. That honor fell to political newcomers Ronald Johnson, who finished first, and Teresa Grant, who came in second.
Primary voters in May narrowed the field, but Johnston voters on Tuesday still had to choose four of eight candidates. After the polls closed and the board of elections published early returns, Johnson, Grant, Smith and Wooten found themselves in the top four. The results changed little as the night wore on.
Smith said she was honored that voters gave her another term on the board, and the retired school principal said she was looking forward to helping the political newcomers.
“I’m very, very happy and excited about the next four years,” Smith said. “I was glad, because with three new members, we needed some continuity. And it’s always good to have experience on any kind of board, so I was really happy that we now have veterans who can mentor our new members.”
After 40 years as an educator, Smith said serving on the school board was natural for her.
“There’s nothing about which I’m more passionate than education,” she said. “I just want to continue to serve and continue our trajectory to make sure we are serving our district’s students, parents, community and especially our teachers and staff members who work so hard to make our system the best it can be.”
Grant was humbled that voters chose her from the eight-candidate pool.
“There were several passionate candidates to choose from, so I appreciate so many people placing their trust in me to serve them, the parents, teachers, staff and children of this county,” she said. “I will do my best to prove that they made the right decision.”
Wooten said he was happy to continue on the board after others left the school system “in excellent shape.”
“It’s a great feeling and honor to be elected for my third term,” he said. “Always humbling to serve this county in this capacity, which is to serve children, their parents and all teachers and administrators that make it happen in the classroom each and every day.”
Wooten’s goals include managing booming enrollment growth. upgrading school buildings, raising teacher salary supplements, increasing career and technical education offerings and improving test scores.
The seven-member Johnston County Board of Education had four seats up for elections, with two certain to go to newcomers. That’s because while Smith and Wooten ran for reelection, board members Keith Branch and Donna White did not. Instead, Branch ran unopposed for a seat on the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, while White ran a winning campaign for a seat in the N.C. House of Representatives.
But a fifth seat on the school board is now open after chairman Larry Strickland ran successfully for Johnston’s other seat in the N.C. House. Strickland has two years remaining on his term; the school board will choose his replacement.
When they have to make a replacement mid-term, elected boards often choose from losing candidates in the last election. The losers on Tuesday in Johnston were, in the order of votes received, Todd Sutton, Crystal Roberts, Summer Hamrick and Jeff Jennings.
But the school board is under no statutory obligation to choose Strickland’s successor from Tuesday’s losing candidates, said Leigh Anne Price, supervisor of Johnston elections.
Abbie Bennett: 910-849-2827; @AbbieRBennett
Teresa Grant 15.05%
Summer Hamrick 9.36%
Jeff Jennings 7.63%
Ronald Johnson 16.49%
Crystal Roberts 9.62%
Peggy D. Smith (I) 14.49%
Todd P. Sutton 12.93%
Mike Wooten (I) 14.03%
With 36 of 36 precincts reporting.