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PUBLISHED ONLINE MARCH 17, 2022   •   VOL. 4, NO. 11

Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
(Click on highlighted link to e-mail the editor)


That's the season's astronomical beginning, yet Smithfield's bloomers haven't been waiting till then, apparently more in tune with Spring's meteorological start the first day of March. One sure sign of Spring's arrival in Smithfield: the blossoming Bradford pear trees that line a number of our streets, including South First shown above last Sunday.


Triangle East Chamber's new CEO starts April 1

Maureen McGuinness – who heads the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce serving a suburban region near Albany, New York  – is coming south to take charge as CEO and president of the Smithfield-based Triangle East Chamber of Commerce. She begins her work here April 1.

"The interest level and response to our search from across the country was high," said Mark McDonnell, chair of the Triangle East Chamber's Board of Directors. "We had over 30 total applicants and many qualified candidates. Maureen McGuinness stood out and is the best fit for our community and the ideal choice for our Chamber.

"She brings with her a successful track record of chamber management, and has implemented programming in workforce development, strategic planning, creative non-dues programming, and membership retention," Mr. McDonnell said.

"It has been a longtime dream of mine to relocate to the Carolinas," Ms. McGuinness said, "and as a chamber professional and champion of business, I felt this was the position in the perfect location for me."

The Bethlehem Chamber serves businesses in the hamlets of Delmar, Elsmere, Glenmont, Slingerlands, and Selkirk in addition to North and South Bethlehem. Before taking her present job, she worked for the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber based in Troy, N.Y. just north of Albany. She has more than 25 years of non-profit management experience, with a degree in Communication Arts from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Ms. McGuinness succeeds Mike Mancuso, who left last year after three years as CEO of the Triangle East Chamber during its transition from the Smithfield-Selma Area Chamber into a regional organization that also serves Pine Level, Princeton, Archer Lodge, Kenly, Wilson's Mills, Micro, and the suburban Cleveland community.



We're still trending in the right direction

The statistical trends continue to move in a positive direction for Johnston County:
• The 14-day test-positive rate is down to 4.3% (30% last month).
• Just 265 new infections were detected this past week (4,588 January's final week).
• Hospitalizations due to COVID numbered 12 mid-week (58 in early February).

Institutional Outbreaks Considered Over by the Johnston County Public Health Department include local episodes at Barbour Court Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Providence Assisted Living, Smithfield Manor Nursing and Rehab, The Landings of Smithfield, Meadowview Assisted Living, Brookdale Smithfield Senior Living, Johnston Correctional Institution, and the Johnston County Jail.

This morning's report from Johnston County Public Schools showed 14 active cases among students and just one among staffs, down from a countywide total of 22 last week. Just one active case – at Smithfield Middle School – was reported among students and staff in central Johnston County.

VIEW the school system's COVID dashboard with data for all schools>

VIEW the current list of vaccination clinics in Johnston County>

VIEW the current list of testing sites in Johnston County>


Case total
since 3-20 
(last week)
since 3-20 
(last week)

(last week) 
Fully vaccinated *
[got boosters]
( 56,101)
112,573: 54%**
6,445,037: 61%**
UNITED STATES 79,631,765
  216,829,829: 66%**
WORLDWIDE 464,084,733
total doses
* 2 doses Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or 1 dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine
** Percentage of total population (all ages)

Data provided by: County of Johnston at 6:50 p.m. March 15
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 12:00 p.m. March 16
Johns Hopkins University at 8:20 a.m. March 17

"Trusted by families since 1977"
840 S. Bright Leaf Blvd. • 919-934-7164 •



Lead EC teacher at SSS earns national certification

Maryam Duran was one of seven teachers recognized at last week's meeting of the Johnston County Board of Education who recently earned their initial certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

Previously a teacher of exceptional children at Archer Lodge Middle School, Ms. Duran joined the Smithfield-Selma High School faculty this school year (2021-22) as Lead EC Teacher.

"We are very proud of Ms. Duran's achievement to earn National Board Certification," said SSS Principal David Allen. "We know this certification is rigorous and signifies Ms. Duran's ability to make a difference in the lives of her students, families, and community. We need more teachers with Ms. Duran's drive and determination."

The other teachers recognized last week for receiving initial National Board certification are Karen Lee of West Clayton Elementary, Rickilee Williams of West Johnston High, Ashley Holloman of Corinth Holders High, Cristy Speight of Dixon Road Elementary, Ragan Schmidt of Archer Lodge Middle, and Stacee Carr of Riverwood Middle School.

Johnston's Board of Education at last week's meeting approved a new list of schools exceeding their design capacity and therefore closed to requests for reassignments from other districts within the county during the 2022-23 school term:
Elementary schools – Benson, Cleveland, Cooper Academy, Corinth-Holders, Dixon Road, Four Oaks, Glendale-Kenly, McGee's Crossroads, Polenta, Powhatan, Princeton, River Dell, West Clayton, West View, and Wilson's Mills.
Middle schools – Archer Lodge, Cleveland, and Four Oaks.
High schools – Clayton, Cleveland, Corinth Holders, and South Johnston.

Added to the Johnston County Public Schools website this week is a detailed summary of last week's staff report to the Board of Education laying out the need for construction of new schools and expansion of existing campuses to meet Johnston's projected population growth during the decade ahead. Providing local funding for a total estimated cost of $720 million would require several bond issues to be approved by county voters through 2026. VIEW the report here>


12 apply for vacant county commissioner seat

They'll be interviewed by a committee of sitting commissioners who'll recommend which one should be appointed by the full board at its April 4 meeting.

The appointee will serve until a replacement is chosen by Johnston's voters in November's General Election to fill the remaining two years of a four-year term vacated by the Feb. 28 resignation of Commissioner Larry Wood of Benson.

The interim replacement must be a registered Republican (Mr. Wood's affiliation) and a resident of District 4 in southern Johnston that extends from Pleasant Grove Township (McGee's Crossroads area) to Meadow Township, including the Town of Benson.

Because it's too late to get names on ballots for the May 17 Primary Election, the executive committees of Johnston County's Democratic and Republican parties will decide by August 1 who their nominees will be in the November 8 General Election.

A list of the applicants for the interim appointment along with their backgrounds was published this week on the JoCo Report>


Johnston Health makes the grade for safety again

Johnston Health, which operates the hospitals at Smithfield and Clayton, has been recognized by Healthgrades, a national consumer-oriented monitor of health care, as a 2022 Patient Safety Excellence Award recipient, placing Johnston Health among the top 5% of all short-term acute-care hospitals for the second year in a row.

During the study period 2018-2020 – when 170,231 potentially preventable safety events occurred among Medicare patients in U.S. hospitals – Healthgrades found that patients treated in hospitals receiving its Patient Safety Excellence Award were, on average: 55.8% less likely to experience an in-hospital fall resulting in hip fracture than patients treated at non-recipient hospitals; 52.6% less likely to experience a collapsed lung resulting from a procedure or surgery in or around the chest; 66.2% less likely to experience pressure sores or bed sores acquired in the hospital; and 65.8% less likely to experience catheter-related bloodstream infections acquired in the hospital.

Said Tom Williams, CEO and president of Johnston Health:
“This award reflects the dedication and hard work of our teams to continually enhance patient care. Despite the pandemic, we’ve kept our focus on those key safety and quality initiatives to prevent falls, infections, and skin breakdowns. We strive every day to give our patients the best care, the best outcome, the best experience.”

VISIT to learn how the organization measures hospital quality>


Ham & Yam Festival returning after a three-year break

No thanks to COVID, Smithfield's 36th annual Ham & Yam Festival wasn't held in 2000, or in 2001. But what's being billed as the "36th-ish" edition is now scheduled for Saturday, May 7 this year.

A schedule of activities and entertainment has yet to be posted on the website but expect to see it there soon.

One thing we can count on: With the event's coming just 10 days before the May 17 Primary Election, we can expect a large turnout of candidates in the running for local and regional offices.

County board to receive results of fire-protection study

Johnston's county commissioners will review findings of a recently completed "Analysis of Fire Department Facilities and Operations" when they convene their regularly scheduled second monthly meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the Courthouse. Also on the agenda are two requests for N.C. Broadband service grants and an update on the Triangle Land Conservancy's activities in Johnston County. Monday's meeting will be live-streamed on the county's YouTube channel>
VIEW details of the agenda on the county's website>




Click on the name to read an obituary, usually posted by the funeral home

LEWIS GEORGE MULLEN, 88 – died March 14


GARY MICHAEL KEENE, 65 – died March 11




Did you know it's "Creek Week" in Smithfield?

The Town Council has proclaimed it so in support of a regional campaign to clean up our creeks, especially in settled communities.

There weren't any organized cleanup efforts here, so far as I know. But we can at least turn our attention to the streams that flow serenely (most of the time) through town.

At the top of my list is Spring Branch, shown here looking downstream from South Sixth Street. Before the 20th Century, this creek was the Town of Smithfield's southern boundary. As the town spread from there, houses sprung up on both sides of its banks, producing a hodgepodge of retaining walls like those seen above.

That's about to change with reconstruction of Spring Branch between Fifth and Sixth streets on property acquired by the town a quarter century ago for removal of flood-prone dwellings. That project will replace the retaining walls with sloping banks more in keeping with natural forces – plus a walking trail and other park-like amenities including a reconfigured Fifth Street Community Garden.

Here's a contractor's rendering of what it's going to look like:

The $200,500 project has been authorized by the Town Council, with almost half the cost covered by a state grant. Construction was to begin this spring, but Stephen Wensman, the town's planning director, now says the work has been delayed till this fall "to pursue additional funding options."

Thank goodness the Town of Smithfield is moving forward to bring us more parks and greenways to enjoy. That will certainly make this a more attractive place for folks seeking a new hometown.


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