Keith Branch, who was sworn into office last December as a Johnston County Commissioner, announced his resignation during Tuesday’s county commissioner meeting.
Branch, 53, of Smithfield recently accepted a new job. He said his schedule and additional responsibilities would not allow him to continue to devote time to the board.
Branch served on the Johnston County School Board from 2008 to 2016 before being elected last year as a county commissioner.
“Today is an extremely difficult day for me filled with all types of emotions,” Branch said at the beginning of the meeting. “I was first elected as a county wide official in November 2008 and serving Johnston County in this capacity has become a way of life for me, something that I truly love and enjoy. As a lifelong resident of a county that has raised me and my two adult children, I will always cherish and remember the opportunity the taxpayers of Johnston County have afforded me. I would be remiss if I did not mention that my children and I are proud graduates of Smithfield Selma Senior High School and we would not have had it any other way. As I ride around the county, I am truly humbled by the rewarding career I have had as an elected official when I see the growth and progress of our great county and school system, knowing I played a small part in that success.”
“Often in life unexpected opportunities occur that one has to take advantage of for their future and the future of their family. July 31st, I started a new career with a major insurance company and based on my schedule and responsibilities it is with sadness but in the best interest of the taxpayers of Johnston County, my family, and myself that I tender my resignation as a Johnston County Commissioner today to be effective September 30, 2017. This is necessary for me to maximize my new career opportunity and also only fair to the taxpayers based on new daily time constraints.”
“Rick (Hester) and staff, I would like to thank you for taking me under your wing the last nine months and teaching me about all the facets of county government. The laymen have no idea what is involved in the daily operations to insure that they have the resources, from trash disposal to waste water to drinking water to public safety, needed to live a comfortable and safe life. I was overwhelmed by our visits to the different departments and how they all work together to make Johnston County a great place to live. I hope the taxpayers realize how fortunate we are to have you as County Manager and such a great staff that leads the way.”
Addressing Commissioner Chairman Jeff Carver and his fellow board members Branch said, “Thank you for serving this great county and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve with you and be a part of this Board. I can’t thank each of you enough for your willingness to allow me to be heard on issues that are of particular importance to me. I feel that the last nine months this board has gained momentum and has started moving forward and has the potential to do great things. One thing that was especially important to me was the necessity to continue to improve dialogue and trust with the Johnston County Board of Education. I feel that our enhanced communication has led to better collaboration that will only continue to benefit the taxpayers, parents, and children of Johnston County.”
“I assume I now hold the record of shortest term for a County Commissioner in Johnston County. With that being said, this short nine months has shown me there is much to do and many hard decisions to be made, especially dealing with growth issues, to insure the quality of life expected and deserved by our taxpayers. I challenge each of you to keep our current momentum going and to not become stagnant. Because of the success and growth of our county, it would be easy to sit back and become fat and happy. With growth and change comes the responsibility to make decisions that are different than we are use to making and/or requires us to think outside the box. I challenge you to do just that while keeping our conservative values intact It’s okay to do new things because the only thing in life that is constant is change. Always remember this Board is not about you. We are only a tool that has been chosen to serve.”
“To my appointed replacement, do not take this opportunity lightly. I challenge you to think for yourself and to put yourself in a position where you are not beheld to any individual or business, but rather make decisions that are in the best interest of the Johnston County taxpayers. As I stated at my first meeting if it’s black it’s black. If it’s white it’s white. If it’s gray, make your decision in the best interest of the taxpayer. As a brand new first time commissioner, always remember it’s a team effort to insure success. Always share your ideas and thoughts but understand they may not always gain traction and that’s okay. I wish you much success.”
“To the Johnston County Taxpayers, thank you for the opportunity to serve. Again, it has been a rewarding experience. While I know there have been times some of you disagreed with decisions I made, please know I can say that I truly feel that I have always made the best decision I could make with the information available to me. Thank you for your confidence and support for the last almost 9 years. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity and experience to serve.”
Speaking to his family, “Stephanie, Dana, Andy, and Mom. I can’t think you enough for your belief in me to serve in this capacity. Your love and support will always be remembered and cherished. You cheered me on and pushed me when I needed the extra strength during difficult times and decisions. As an elected official, I signed on for the potential of others speaking negatively about me, I know you didn’t. During those difficult times when I had to tie you up and tape your mouths (laughing) thank you for understanding and your willingness to have my back and again believe and trust in me. You more than anyone else know my heart and desire which has always been to make Johnston County the best place in the country to live.”
Branch will officially step down as a commissioner on September 30th but says he will still live in the community and remain active.
Branch served as President of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce in 2003 and 2008. He was an Allstate insurance agent in Clayton from 1998 to 2015 before selling his business.
Search For Replacement
Under state law, once a vacancy occurs on a county board of commissioners, the vacancy must be filled within 60 days after the vacancy occurs.
Branch represents District 6 on the board, which includes the North Smithfield 1 and 2, Wilson’s Mills and Pine Level voting districts. His replacement must reside in District 6.
State law does not provide a process as to how a board decides who to fill the vacancy, however they must be a member of the same political party.
In this case, Commissioners have the option to seek a recommendation from the Johnston County Republican Party but are not obligated to select the party’s recommendation.