The Johnston County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 7 expressed its gratitude to two retiring leaders. Commissioners presented plaques to outgoing Chairman Tony Braswell and Vice Chairman DeVan Barbour.
“It’s been both a joy and privilege to work with those gentlemen for the last 12 years,” said County Manager Rick Hester. “I’ve learned a lot from both of them. Their guidance and advice have made me a better manager, and they will be truly missed.”
Braswell, chairman since December 2014 and vice chairman the prior two years, has represented Johnston County’s District 6 since December 2004. He is principal at Legends Real Estate LLC and president of Legends Investment Group LLC.
Barbour has served District 4 since December 2004. He is manager of Brightleaf Market, a popular Smithfield flea market.
Johnston County has witnessed population growth and economic advancement since 2004. In that time, the county opened the Johnston County Workforce Development Center, a training partnership among county government, the private sector and Johnston Community College.
New corporate residents like Becton Dickinson and Sysco have built distribution centers in the county, and manufacturing leaders Grifols, Caterpillar and Novo Nordisk have launched major expansions to existing operations. Those investments, in turn, have helped bring new residents and retailers to Johnston.
In April of this year, the county’s economic growth and fiscal management earned notice from Moody’s, one of the nation’s most-watched credit-ratings services, which upgraded the county’s credit rating from Aa2 to Aa1, its second-highest. The move came a week after Standard & Poors reaffirmed it AA+ rating for the county.
“That allows Johnston County to borrow funds for capital projects at lower interest rates,” Braswell said, “and it was a signature accomplishment.”
Another moment Braswell recalls proudly was the $1.8 billion expansion that Novo Nordisk announced in August 2015. The move by the Danish insulin maker will double the company’s local workforce.
“Then came the news that Grifols also was expanding,” Braswell said. “Both those projects put Johnston County in the global spotlight as far as the pharmaceutical industry is concerned.”
Barbour said he had enjoyed getting to meet so many Johnstonians over the years. “When I look back on all these years, it’s more the one-on-one contact I had with the people of Johnston County that stands out,” he said. “I’ve been impressed by the way all the county commissioners I’ve served with have been focused on helping people. That’s unique.”
Braswell also cited the expansion of county 911 service, improvements to public schools and enhanced utilities among the most meaningful accomplishments of the past 12 years.
He praised the support of Johnston County’s government employees, especially its department heads, during his tenure. “I’m also grateful to my fellow commission members for their confidence in my leadership,” said Braswell, who thanked the citizens of Johnston County as well. “Teamwork is what enabled Johnston County to position itself for the future.”
Barbour looks forward to spending some quality time with his family, especially his three grandchildren. “People don’t always realize how much time and attention it takes serving in a role like county commissioner,” he said.
Braswell does not expect to withdraw completely from community service. He continues to serve on advisory and governing boards for numerous local groups.
“I’m not the kind of guy who goes quietly into the night,” Braswell said.
Nor does the former mayor of Pine Level rule out another run for public office. “I wouldn’t count me out,” he said, “but I wouldn’t count me in.”