Todd Sutton of Kenly will replace 18-year member Larry Strickland on the Johnston County Board of Education.
In a special meeting Tuesday, the board chose Sutton from a field of nine candidates who applied for the open seat. His selection was unanimous.
Sutton, a pharmaceutical rep, ran for a school board seat in November, collecting more than 31,000 votes, but he finished fifth in the eight-person race for the four open seats. Strickland easily won the District 28 N.C. House race and retired from the school board last month to take his place in Raleigh.
School board policy dictates that it replace members after soliciting applications. The school board accepted applications for two weeks last month and received nine, including three from candidates on the November ballot. In addition to Sutton, candidates Crystal Kimpson Roberts of Smithfield and Jeff Jennings of Clayton applied for the job. The other applicants were Smithfield’s Summer Michelle Capps, Danny Creech of Benson, Greg Evans of Smithfield, Francisco Ibarra of Middlesex, Troy LaPlante of Selma and Katherine Tamer of Smithfield.
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Sutton stood out to the board as the next-highest vote-getter in the election and as an active campaigner and frequent visitor to the county’s school board meetings. Peggy Smith, who successfully defended her school board seat in the November election, nominated Sutton.
“(Sutton) was the fifth position in the general election, garnering more than 30,000 votes,” Smith said. “Mr. Sutton serves on the executive board of the education foundation and is dedicated to the grant process. He has served as a parent leader at all levels of school. His wife is a teacher and his children attend Johnston County public schools. He is a godly man and has continued to come to board meetings when others did not. I’m honored to nominate Todd Sutton to this board in the position replacing Larry Strickland.”
There were no other nominations.
Though he grew up elsewhere, Sutton said he had come to call Johnston County home. He noted that his father was a Johnston County native who graduated from Smithfield-Selma High School
Sutton, his wife Lynda and their son Noah were the only people in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting. Sutton said he lost his father at the young age of 19 but carried a small reminder of him – his father’s cufflinks bearing his initials.
“I feel like Johnston County is my home, and we don’t plan to ever leave again,” Sutton said. “I don’t take this appointment very lightly. I take it as now it’s time to go to work and do what I said I was going to do on the campaign trail. The trust you’ve put in me, I appreciate and I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I promise you before I do anything I’m going to pray and analyze the situation.”
The board members, including November challengers Ronald Johnson and Teresa Grant, complimented Sutton on a clean campaign.
“I’ve only known Todd since the beginning of campaign season,” Grant said. “Through that time, I learned he was a man of God, a man of character and a man of integrity. And I’m thankful to claim friend, and I’m glad to have him here with us today.”
Board veterans welcomed Sutton to their ranks and said they liked what they had seen so far.
“I’ve seen (Sutton) serve Johnston County schools in a purely unselfish way, giving his time and energy easing a need he saw that existed,” school board member Butler Hall said.
Sutton will take his oath of office in time to join the school board for its Jan. 10 meeting.