Serving Kenly, Selma, Smithfield, Princeton & Pine Level since 1973

Former Johnston teacher seeking state office

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CARY — Catherine Truitt, a former classroom teacher in Johnston County, has filed as a candidate for state superintendent of public instruction.

Joining her in filing on her birthday, Dec. 17, were her husband, Jeff, and their three children, Susie, Chorley and Charles, who all attend Wake County public schools.

Truitt, who is chancellor of nonprofit Western Governors University of North Carolina, thinks her background has led to this moment.

“I’ve had a very unusual career for someone who began as a classroom teacher,” she said. “I trained to be a high school English teacher but across 13 years found myself teaching in all kinds of settings, including elementary school and young adults in the British school system. My husband’s career as a naval officer meant we moved every few years, so I just bloomed where I was planted.”

After her husband’s 14 years of active-duty service in the U.S. Navy, Truitt and her family moved to North Carolina. After teaching in Johnston County for three years, she was a turnaround coach before joining Gov. Pat McCrory’s office as his senior adviser on education.

“This position provided an incredible ‘boot camp’ for someone like me who knew a lot about teaching but had not been exposed to education-related politics at the state level,” Truitt said. “The opportunity to see how all levels of education — from pre-K to workforce development — function (or not) as a continuum made me sit up and take notice. The policy decisions we make before a child even starts school can have an impact on whether they are college and career ready and able to contribute to the economy after graduation.”

“My career in education as a teacher, a policy maker and a higher education trailblazer, as well as my experience as a parent, have shown me that leadership of K-12 education in North Carolina needs to be about two things,” Truitt added. “First, we must recognize that every decision made about education in our state should begin with one simple question: ‘Is this what is best for students?’ Second, we must chart a path that ensures there is a highly qualified teacher in all public school classrooms across the state. Anything less is unacceptable.”

“I also believe that the best solutions for improving education for North Carolina students begin in the classrooms and local schools across our state – not in Raleigh, and certainly not in Washington, D.C.,” Truitt said. “The Department of Public Instruction should be focused on being the voice of students and educators through partnering with local teachers, principals and superintendents and giving them the flexibility necessary to overcome the unique challenges their students, schools and school districts face. More top-down ‘solutions’ from Raleigh are not the answer.”

For more information about Truitt and her campaign, go to

School board race heats up

Candidates are lining up for a chance to serve on the Johnston County Board of Education.

Rick Mercier of Clayton, a former journalist who now works in local government, filed on Friday, as did incumbent Mike Wooten of Princeton. Also filing on Friday were Michelle Antoine of Clayton, a stay-at-home parent; Terry Tippett of Simon Road, Middlesex, a retired teacher; and Yvonne Marlow of Clayton, who filed just before the noon deadline.

On Thursday, Ronald Johnson, another incumbent, filed for reelection. A Smithfield police officer, Johnson has recently made claims of wrongdoing within the schools.

Also filing on Thursday were Carolyn Cash, Dr. Chuck Williams and Mark Lane. Cash, a Clayton resident, is a child nutrition administrative officer with the state’s Division of Adult Correctoin and Juvenile Justice. Williams, who lives in Clayton, is a physician with Horizon Family Medicine in Clayton. Lane, who lives on Yelverton Grove Road near Smithfield, owns Lane Lawn Care.

Meanwhile, Ava Atkinson Gaines of Smithfield, a retired teacher, entered the race on Dec. 18. The day before, Kenon Crumble of Clayton filed to run. He is a school counselor with the N.C. Department of Public Safety in Butner.

Mercier, Wooten, Antoine, Tippett, Marlowe, Johnson, Cash, Williams, Lane, Gaines and Crumble join other school board hopefuls, including former school board member Kay Carroll, a Smithfield pharmacist; incumbent Teresa Grant, a Cleveland community resident who works for the N.C. Department of Agriculture; Lyn Andrews of Smithfield, an adjunct professor at Campell University; Kelly O’Hanlon-Peedin, a married mother of four who lives between Smithfield and McGee’s Crossroads; and Melynda Slay, a small-business owner who lives on the western edge of the Cleveland community.

Four school board seats are up for election next year.

More Senate hopefuls

Two more candidates have filed for the District 11 seat in the N.C. Senate.

Albert R. Pacer, a Democrat who lives in Johnston County, filed on Thursday. He also sought the seat in 2018 and 2016 but lost to Republican Rick Horner both times.

Also filing on Thursday was Republican Dennis Nielsen of N.C. 39, Middlesex.

Two other candidates filed previously in District 11, which represents Nash and Johnston counties. They are Democrat Allen Wellons of Smithfield and Republican Patrick Harris, a Smithfield resident who currently serves on the Johnston County Board of Commissioners.

House candidates files

Linda Bennett, a Democrat who lives in northern Johnston County, has filed for the District 26 N.C. House seat help by Rep. Donna White, a Clayton Republican. A second Republican, Justin Tate, has also filed for the seat. Bennett is retired.

In House District 28, Democrat Corey Stephens has filed for the seat held Republican incumbent Larry Strickland of Pine Level, who has filed for reelection.

More commissioner candidates

Dr. Gettys Cohen Jr., a Smithfield dentist, has filed for the District 6 seat on the Johnston County Board of Commissioners. He is a Democrat.

Three Republicans have also filed for the seat. They are incumbent Tony Braswell of Pine Level, former commissioner Lee Jackson of Smithfield and Mike Powell of Cleveland Road, Smithfield.

Separately, Wendy Ella May, a Democrat who lives near Micro, filed for District 2 seat on the Board of Commissioners. She’ll face Republican incumbent Ted Godwin of Micro in the November election.