The candidate-filing period for 2016 elections in Johnston County opened with a flurry.
Among the new names was one with a familiar ring to it. DeVan Barbour IV, a Republican from Benson, filed for the County Commissioners’ seat currently held by his father, who announced earlier that he would not seek reelection.
In an email, the younger Barbour said he was eager to begin campaigning. “Johnston County is home to 112,000 registered voters, and I plan to take our vision for the future of our community to each and every one of them,” he said. “We are already printing campaign materials and running advertisements on social media that have reached over 12,000 people across the county.”
Barbour is a benefits consultants with Piece Group Benefits in Holly Springs. He filed on Monday, the first day of the filing period.
“With low taxes, less regulation, safe towns and strong schools, today is a great time to call Johnston County home,” Barbour says on his website. “However, we must always remember that our tomorrow is only as good as our today will allow. We must embody a long-term vision for the future of our county and work to ensure that our children, and grandchildren, will have the ability to enjoy a thriving Johnston County as we do today.”
Among the other early filers were political newcomers who hope to win election to the Johnston County Board of Education.
Dale Bender is a former volunteer coordinator for Johnston County Special Olympics. She is now president of Hopes-N-Dreams, a Johnston County nonprofit that serves special-needs people and wounded veterans.
In an email, Bender said she and her husband, Paul, moved to Johnston County more than 20 years ago to raise their two sons, David and Beau. David and his wife, Johnene, are raising their three sons in the Cleveland community. Beau is Dale and Paul’s special-needs son.
Bender is retired from the State of North Carolina. She drove a school bus in Wake County from 1994 until 2010 and in Johnston County from 2011 to 2013. Her husband is retired from the U.S. Air Force.
Bender was coordinator of Johnston County Special Olympics from 1998 until 2006. That experience led her to found Hopes-N-Dreams in 2007, she said.
As expected, Teresa Grant of the Cleveland community also filed for school board.
“Our current (school) board has spent years building a collaborative spirit with our county commissioners and legislators, which has been key in meeting the needs of our students, teachers and schools,” Grant said. “I want to continue the excellent job this board has done.”
Grant is a Chemistry Section supervisor and safety officer with the N.C. Department of Agriculture. She has two granddaughters at West View Elementary School.
A third school board candidate is Todd P. Sutton of Old Beulah Road, Kenly. He is in sales with Zylera Pharmaceuticals in Raleigh.
“As a North Carolina native, husband, father of two and a 19-year resident of Johnston County, my family and I have a long-vested interest in the Johnston County school system,” Sutton said in a statement. “Our family has students and teachers in all areas of Johnston County public schools. Also, as a parent of a high-functioning special needs student, I have experienced the stance on bullying and have been very pleased with the support from the staff and administration.”
Sutton outlined two planks in his campaign platform. One is raising teacher supplements, “mainly due to the increased turnover of good teachers leaving our county and carrying their talents to a neighboring one,” he said.
“Secondly, we need to continue to work with land developers in our county to make sure land is set aside within the scope of their subdivision for a school if needed,” Sutton said. “This will help keep Johnston County Schools as a community-based school system rather than having to go to a school-assignment program.”
Tuesday, the second day of filing, brought more school board hopefuls: Tom Randolph of Smithfield, who works in sales with Rooms To Go; Jeff Jennings of Clayton, a grant program officer with the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission; and Summer Hamrick of Smithfield, an agent with All Insurance Services in the Cleveland community.
Jennings is a 14-year resident of east Clayton and a 27-year employee of state government. “I want to commend our current school board members and the county office on how hard they have worked to tackle the tremendous growth in our county and manage budgets that, at times, have proven challenging,” he said.
“Obviously, the upcoming openings on the school board have presented an opportunity for residents to step up and provide leadership,” Jennings added. “Even though much has been accomplished during the last few years, we all know that Johnston County is faced with additional educational challenges. If elected, I will be seen as a member who listens to this community and works with everyone, from citizens to county officials, to find ways to improve and strengthen our school system.”
Jennings serves on the Corinth Holders High School Advisory Council, and he is chairman of the board of trustees for the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield.
“My children have had the opportunity to receive a great education in our schools,” he said “Now that they are in college, our family has experienced firsthand how well prepared they are to tackle the rigors of a university, thanks to their hard work and to the education provided by Johnston County teachers.”
A number of incumbents also filed this past week. Among them: Jeff Carver of Clayton and Ted Godwin of Selma for county commissioner and Mike Wooten for school board.
Also, current school board member Donna White of Clayton filed for the N.C. House. She hopes to win the seat held by Leo Daughtry of Smithfield, who has said he won’t run again. And Keith Branch, another school board member, filed for county commissioner.