Pikeville Regains Fiscal Autonomy Through Dedication, Hard Work

Pikeville Regains Fiscal Autonomy Through Dedication, Hard Work

Pikeville Mayor Garrett Johnston is the first to admit his small town of 720 residents was in financial disarray and operational dysfunction when the Local Government Commission (LGC) exercised statutory authority to impound its books.

Through hard work, sharp focus on transparency and governance, and sheer determination, the Wayne County municipality has climbed out of that deep hole, and 20 months later has regained authority to handle its own finances. On Tuesday, Dec. 6, LGC members presented Mayor Johnston and Pikeville Town Commissioners with a ceremonial key to the city’s coffers to honor the accomplishment.

“It’s been an amazing year,” Mayor Johnston said. “As far back as when I took the chair last December, it was an absolute shambles. We’ve grown closer as a board. We’ve gone through a difficult battle together, and we’ve come out stronger and more cohesive, with better communication.”

The LGC, chaired by State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, and staffed by the Department of State Treasurer (DST), passed a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting to allow Town Commissioners and their properly designated fiscal officers to assume full control of all financial affairs. The LGC had voted to impound the town’s books on April 13, 2021. At the time Pikeville had only 4.8% of unrestricted available funds to meet its $765,000 budget and was in jeopardy of missing five payments totaling $158,000 of debt.

Mayor Johnston credited the LGC with helping to salvage the town from a downward spiral that potentially put its charter at risk.

“We had just a straight-up Jerry Springer show for board meetings. So, when I took office it was just a full embracing of all the services the LGC had to offer. I really fail to grasp why other towns wouldn’t take full advantage of what the LGC brings to the table. The accountability aspect can be a little scary but it’s a necessity,” he said.

“State personnel came in and straightened out all the mess that we created and left us in a wonderful place. We are a poster child of LGC success. I would be happy to be a spokesman to any town that’s being stubborn about working with the LGC because it’s a huge asset,” Mayor Johnston said.

Treasurer Folwell said Pikeville has demonstrated the best of North Carolina in its drive to restore financial self-determination.

“It is never our intention to interfere in local government functions, and we especially do not want to assume financial control of a municipality. But there are occasions when transparency, accountability and governance are lacking to a grave extent. Then we must step in to rescue troubled towns and cities and set them back on the path of good stewardship of the people’s tax dollars, and rebuild public confidence,” Treasurer Folwell said. “Pikeville and the LGC staff deserve all the credit for this rebound.”

“Pikeville showed exceptional resiliency and resolve, working in full cooperation with our staff to find out what’s right, get it right, and keep it right. We have provided town leaders with the skills, tools and information they need to excel, and we have every expectation that is what will happen going forward. This truly was a whole community effort, so residents and taxpayers share in this triumph,” Treasurer Folwell said. “Pikeville stands out as a shining example of attacking problems in a positive manner for maximum achievement.”

Mayor Johnston said Pikeville residents were fearful of the state taking control of town finances, and panicked over the prospect of losing the town’s charter, so they were supportive of the Board of Commissioners’ self-improvement efforts. He hosted an informational community meeting before assuming office that attracted about 1 in 10 town residents.

“I tried to encourage the public that the LGC coming in was a positive thing, that we were going to get books straight, we were going to learn how to do it, and maintain it,” Mayor Johnston said.

He said the LGC encouraged Pikeville officials to switch to a council-manager form of government, and he believes that has been an essential reform. With the addition of Tim Biggerstaff in that position, starting on Monday, Dec. 5, Mayor Johnston is optimistic about the future.

The LGC also worked to ensure town financial staff received proper training, and established mentorships for town officials to tap into to resolve issues and get answers to any concerns going forward, he said.

“It brought a real sense of security that we’ve got a real solid team behind us in getting our finances straight,” despite a trace of trepidation as the LGC pulls out of town, the mayor said. But he plans to continue a strong relationship with the LGC because he thinks the accountability is effective.

“We’re not talking about the past,” Mayor Johnston said. “We’re looking forward to the future.”

United Way Surpasses 80% of Campaign Goal

United Way Surpasses 80% of Campaign Goal

The United Way of Wayne County has announced its 2022 Community Campaign is at 83% of its goal.  This year, the United Way is trying to raise $850,000 to impact the lives of 17,000 people in Wayne County.  Currently, United Way has reached 83% of their raising $705,500 to improve the lives of 14,110 people across Wayne County.

The United Way thanks its Major Investors who held an employee campaign this year, many of whom are listed below.  You can give to the 2022 Community Campaign until the end of the year.  More information on the annual fundraising campaign can be found at UnitedWayne.org.

Aycock to Serve as Chair of the Board of Commissioners

Aycock to Serve as Chair of the Board of Commissioners

At the Wayne County Commissioner’s Meeting on Tuesday, Commissioner Barbara Aycock was nominated by the Board of Commissioners to serve as the Chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners. Commissioner Chris Gurley was nominated to serve as the Vice-Chairman for the next year.

Commissioner Barbara Aycock joined the Board of Commissioners in November 2020 after 15 years of experience in local government. She served as the town administrator for the Town of Fremont from 2013-2020 and the town administrator for the Town of Black Creek from 2003-2012. Barbara is a lifelong resident of Wayne County and resides in Pikeville.

Commissioner Gurley also joined the Board of Commissioners in November 2020. He has served in the volunteer fire service since 1984 and is a strong advocate for volunteer departments. Chris is a lifelong resident of Wayne County and attended Charles B. Aycock High school and Wayne Community College.

Fatal Traffic Crash

Fatal Traffic Crash

On Dec. 5, 2022, at approximately 8 p.m., the Goldsboro Police Department was notified by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, via Wayne County Communications, of a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed. The vehicle was traveling westbound on U.S. 70 from the LaGrange area. A Wayne County Sheriff’s deputy conducting business checks located a suspicious vehicle at Deacon Jones Chevrolet at 6595 E US 70, LaGrange. When the deputy turned around to investigate further, the vehicle fled the area at a high rate of speed.

Once in the 4200 blk of US 70 E, the driver then lost control of the vehicle and ran off the road to the right. The vehicle struck a culvert, went airborne and struck a light pole before overturning in the parking lot of 4209 US 70 E. There were two occupants in the vehicle, and both were ejected from the vehicle during the crash. 

A trooper with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol was in the area when the crash occurred and stopped at the scene, along with the initial Sheriff’s deputy.

The Goldsboro Police Department, Goldsboro Fire Department, and Wayne County EMS also responded to the scene. The Goldsboro Police Department Traffic Unit initiated an investigation of the crash with the assistance of the State Highway Patrol.

The occupants of the vehicle were identified as a known 15 year old juvenile and 18 year old Jakoree Donnell Harper.

Responding EMS personnel declared a known juvenile deceased at the scene. Jakoree Harper was transported to UNC Health Wayne and treated for injuries sustained in the crash. It was last reported that Harper was in stable condition at UNC Health Wayne.

It is unknown at this time who was driving the vehicle. The traffic crash investigation continues by the Goldsboro Police Department.

It was also determined that the vehicle involved had been stolen from the Deacon Jones dealership in LaGrange.  The investigation of the stolen vehicle is being conducted by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.

New Year’s Eve Pickle Drop Returns December 31

New Year’s Eve Pickle Drop Returns December 31

Mt. Olive Pickle Company, Inc. will hold its New Year’s Eve Pickle Drop Saturday, December 31 with the help of a few of its friends.

As in recent years, the 22nd annual event will be staged in front of the University of Mount Olive’s Kornegay Arena, and the Mount Olive Volunteer Fire Department will again assist with Tower 23, its ladder truck. From the tower, the glowing New Year’s Eve Pickle descends into a giant pickle jar.

“We are so grateful to both the University and to the fire department for their willingness to partner with us on the pickle drop,” said Lynn Williams, company spokesperson. “Their help has allowed the event to grow and change.”

The evening will feature live music, free pickles, food trucks, and a chance to win door prizes for those who contribute to the annual canned food drive for Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC. The event also continues its signature early schedule: everything gets underway at 5 o’clock, and the pickle descends at 7 o’clock sharp. A fireworks display immediately follows. The whole thing is over by 7:30.

New this year is Wild Ride, a Selma-based band that plays a wide range of country, rock and pop.

“Wild Ride played for the Pickles, Pigs & Swigs event in downtown Mount Olive in October, and they were just terrific,” Ms. Williams said. “They will be a great addition to the festivities.”

The New Year’s Eve Pickle Drop, first held in 1999 and attended by a handful of Mt. Olive Pickle employees, annually draws several thousand.

For those who can’t make it in person, watch it live on New Year’s Eve on the web at www.mtolivepickles.com.

In business since 1926 in its hometown of Mount Olive, NC, Mt. Olive Pickle Company manufactures the best-selling brand of pickles, peppers and relishes in the U.S.

Event Details

· The New Year’s Eve Pickle Drop is an outdoor event. Given the concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, those who attend may want to wear a face mask and to socially distance

where possible. For those who are uncomfortable in large gatherings, we invite you to watch the festivities online at www.mtolivepickles.com.

· Physical address for the live event: University of Mount Olive, 634 Henderson Street, Mount Olive, NC 28365, in front of the George and Annie Dail Kornegay Arena

· Handicapped parking will be available · Park anywhere on campus – www.umo.edu/

· Food trucks will be available to serve at 5 p.m., and the live music also starts at 5:00

· Video screens will count down the last hours of 2022, from 5-7 p.m.

· The pickle drops at 7 p.m. sharp

· Fireworks will begin immediately after the pickle lands in the jar.

· Free pickles courtesy Mt. Olive Pickle

· Bring canned food or financial contribution for Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC and receive a ticket for a door prize drawing. The grand prize is a pickle like the one that is dropped, without the lights.

· Bring your own chairs!

WCPS Superintendent Announces Retirement

WCPS Superintendent Announces Retirement

On Monday evening, following the Wayne County Board of Education Meeting, Superintendent Dr. David A. Lewis met with his Leadership Team to share the attached retirement letter which he presented to the Board Members earlier in the day.

“It has been my honor and privilege to serve the students, families, staff, and communities as superintendent for the past two years,” stated Dr. Lewis. “As I shared with the Board and the Leadership Team, Wayne County Public Schools is very much on stable financial ground and our schools are moving in a positive direction academically. Our district is well positioned for the future.”  

Dr. Lewis will retire effective March 31, 2023.  

Dr. Lewis is a veteran administrator with over 31 years of public education experience including teaching, school administration, and district leadership. The veteran educator and district administrator was named Interim Superintendent in January 2021 and has served as Superintendent since July of the same year. Prior to his transition to the superintendent’s office, Dr. Lewis served as an assistant superintendent for more than seven years. During this time, areas under his leadership included: accountability, testing, OCR, PowerSchool, EVAAS district administrator, special projects, technology integration/support, program evaluation, student assignment (Regular Ed), district calendar committee, principal evaluation support, NC School Report Card, transportation, school staffing allotments, student services, and athletics. From June 2020 through October 2020, Dr. Lewis also served as the district’s interim finance officer.

Prior to being named an assistant superintendent, Dr. Lewis served as executive director for information technology/athletics, director of elementary education/athletics, principal of Rosewood Elementary, principal of Rosewood High, and assistant principal of Goldsboro High. He also taught and later served as an assistant principal at John A. Holmes High School in Edenton, North Carolina. Dr. Lewis holds a Bachelor’s degree in English education, a master’s degree in school administration, and a doctorate’s degree in educational leadership.

Suspect Steals Car and Crashes

Suspect Steals Car and Crashes

While conducting a business check on the Deacon Jones Dealership in LaGrange, NC, on December 5th,
2022, at approximately 8 pm, a Wayne County Deputy observed a suspicious vehicle leaving the dealership. Due to it being after hours and the business being closed, the Deputy decided to investigate.
As the Deputy turned onto HWY 70 westbound towards Goldsboro, he observed the vehicle speeding
away and attempted to stop it. The Deputy lost sight of the vehicle but continued to travel Westbound
on HWY 70 in an attempt to locate it.

As the Deputy approached the 4200 block of HWY 70 East, he discovered that the vehicle he had observed speeding away from the Deacon Jones Dealership had been involved in a single-vehicle crash. It was determined during the crash investigation that the vehicle had been stolen from the Deacon Jones Dealership.

As a result of this incident, 18-year-old Jakoree Donell Harper of Goldsboro has been arrested and charged with Larceny of a Motor Vehicle and Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle. A secured bond was set at $49,999.01.

The Goldsboro Police Department is investigating the motor vehicle crash.

Bennie R. McNair

Bennie R. McNair

December 4, 2022, 63, Goldsboro –

Mr. Bennie R. McNair, 63, answered the Master’s call on Sunday, December 4, 2022, at the SECU Hospice House of Johnston Health, Smithfield, NC. Arrangements are incomplete at this time.

Services of caring compassionate and distinguished class entrusted to J.B. Rhodes Funeral Home & Cremations of Goldsboro.

Fitzhugh “Rocky” L. Lane

Fitzhugh “Rocky” L. Lane

December 3, 2022, 69, Goldsboro –

Mr. Fitzhugh “Rocky” L. Lane, 69, completed this earthly walk of life on Saturday, December 3, 2022, at Kitty Askins Hospice Center, Goldsboro, NC. There will be a viewing held on Saturday, December 10, 2022, from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm at J.B. Rhodes Funeral Home & Cremations, 1701 Wayne Memorial Drive, Goldsboro, NC.

He was born in Wayne County, NC on July 9, 1953, to James Lane and Elouise Brinson Lane.

Services of caring compassionate and distinguished class entrusted to J.B. Rhodes Funeral Home & Cremations of Goldsboro.