The 2016 school board election in Johnston County continues to draw candidates. Among the latest filers are political newcomers Summer Hamrick of Smithfield and Chip Swartz of the Cleveland community.
A native of Raleigh, Hamrick graduated from Leesville Road High School before attending Central Carolina Community College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is co-owner of an insurance agency that has offices in Smithfield and the Cleveland community.
Hamrick and her husband, Air Force veteran Bruce, have two daughters, Kaitlynd, a student at Cleveland Middle School, and Payton, who attends West View Elementary. She said the school board needs a parent’s perspective.
As a parent, Hamrick said she understands the busy schedules of children and the importance of maintaining good study habits to achieve positive results. With her on the school board, the “parents and faculty of Johnson County will have a friendly advocate who is currently engaged in the same challenges, providing a listening ear, firm understanding and energy to help,” she said.
Hamrick added that she understands the needs of school system employees; when she was growing up, her mother worked in a school system. And she said her business experience would prove valuable too. In addition to co-owning an insurance agency, she is volunteer office manager for a dance studio.
“The school board needs to continue to be a united group that works well together and can continue to make Johnston County Schools a great learning and developmental environment for the children,” Hamrick said.
Swartz is business manager for a Raleigh law firm, and his wife of 19 years, Jennifer, is a high school assistant principal in Johnston County. He and his wife both hail from Elizabeth City but didn’t meet until they had relocated to the Piedmont for college and jobs.
Swartz said he came to Johnston County by way of his wife, who did her student teaching at North Johnston High School. “From the time Jennifer took that student teaching position, we knew Johnston County was where we wanted to raise a family and build our lives,” he said. After Jennifer’s first year of teaching at South Johnston High School, the two moved to Benson as newlyweds.
The Swartz family now resides in the Cleveland community, but their hub of activity tends to be Four Oaks, where they are members of Four Oaks United Methodist Church. Their daughter, MacKenzie, attends public school in Four Oaks, and Swartz sits on the school’s Advisory Council and is a member of its Parent Teacher Association.
“I think I may bring an interesting perspective to the position,” Swartz said of his interest in the school board. “I am a parent who has a child enrolled in the Johnston County school system, so I share parents’ concerns for maintaining a safe, enriching school environment that prepares our county’s children for the challenges ahead.
“Likewise, I am the proud husband of a lifelong Johnston County educator who has spent half her career in the classroom as a board certified English teacher and the other half in administration as an assistant principal. So I have a real appreciation of the pressures, demands and constraints placed on our school personnel in accomplishing the aforementioned goals. You might say I have a vested interest in both sides of the coin.”
Swartz is a graduate of East Carolina, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. He also holds the designation of Certified Legal Manager, one of just eight in North Carolina.
“It has been my privilege to reside in Johnston County for nearly 20 years now, and to the extent I could possibly serve this county’s citizens on education matters in a dignified and responsive manner, it would be an honor to do so,” he said. “It strikes me that what is necessary in a successful candidate for a seat on the board of education is a proven track record of supporting Johnston County public education, a commitment to continue evolving and improving our public schools, and a willingness to serve Johnston County parents, students and education professionals on challenging, complicated issues that our schools currently face and, undoubtedly, will continue to face.
“Because of a belief that I meet these criteria, the Johnston County Board of Education is a place that I have identified as being well-suited for me to contribute to a county that has been so good to me and my family.”
DeVan Barbour IV will have primary competition in his bid to succeed his father as the District 4 commissioner on the Johnston County Board of Commissioners. Larry Wood, who lives near Four Oaks, has filed to run.
“I’m running because I feel obligated as an American and as a father,” Wood aid. “Our laws are being ignored, our education system is failing our kids, right on down to our way of life being attacked. And yet our elected officials remain silent – at least until the next election.”
Wood and his wife, Carla, a teaching assistant, have four children. The family attends Burnell Baptist Church. Wood works for James River Equipment in Garner. He serves of the board of the Parent Teacher Association at Four Oaks Elementary School.
“If elected, I’m going to use every ounce of influence that the position of county commissioner has to offer to cut taxes, eliminate red tape for small businesses expose government waste, focus on our educators and students’ success and champion freedom,” Wood said. “We live in a great county, a great country. I just want our lives, our kids’ lives, to be all they can be. I can no longer just sit on the sidelines.”