School Board Increases Field Of Candidates For Vacant Seat

Rawls and Tippett added to list of finalists after one candidate withdraws name

SMITHFIELD – The Johnston County Public School (JCPS) Board was scheduled to begin the interview process at 5:30pm today (Monday) with five finalists for a board vacancy created by the January resignation of Tracie Zukowski. Instead, Chairman Todd Sutton announced one candidate had withdrawn their name from consideration. After a 6-to-0 vote, two more candidates were added to the list of finalists.

Last Thursday, Feb. 18th, the JCPS board held two rounds of votes. In the first round, the number of applicants was reduced from 31 to 7. In the second round, the number was reduced from 7 to 5.

Screenshot of Chairman Todd Sutton at the Feb. 22, 2021 meeting of the JCPS Board.

The five finalists named Feb. 18th were Dr. Chuck Williams (5 votes), Al Byrd (5 votes), Robert O’Neal Jr. (4 votes), Brian Jenkins (3 votes), and Jeff Robinson (3 votes).

During Monday’s meeting, Chairman Sutton said he spoke with Jeff Robinson on Feb. 20th and he withdrew his name from consideration.

Afterwards, Sutton said he consulted with the school board attorney and determined the only fair thing to do was to include the two candidates who were among the seven finalists. They were Marvin Rawls Jr. (2 votes) and Terry Tippett (2 votes).

Chairman Sutton requested the Feb. 22nd interviews be postponed to allow the board to extend an offer Rawls and Tippett to be included as finalists and to participate in the interview process.

In a motion by Ronald Johnson and seconded by Mike Wooten, the board voted 6-to-0 to accept Chairman Sutton’s recommendations.

Since the Feb. 18th decision by the JCPS Board to exclude Tippett from the field of finalists, the public has been critical of the move. Tippett was the fifth highest vote-getter in the Nov. 2020 race for four seats. In Nov. 2016, Sutton did not win election but was appointed in Jan. 2017 to fill the seat of Larry Strickland because he the highest vote-getter not to have won a seat.

Board member Ronald Johnson reminded the board during the Feb. 18 meeting, precedent had been set in 2017 to appoint vacant seats, referencing Sutton’s appointment. However, Mr. Sutton, who is now the chairman, said there was no precedent and no set guidelines on how to fill a vacancy.

Saturday night, Tippett released a statement to Johnston County Report critical of Todd Sutton’s decision not to include him. Tippett called Sutton a “hypocrite” and urged him to resign.

Tippett said in part, “It is important to recognize that it was not Tippett’s seat and never would be. It is the people’s seat and I simply wanted to fill it to be a voice for the people-ALL the people of Johnston County… Everybody should have their voice heard and not drowned out by a self proclaimed elite few… I will put my experience and credentials against anyone applying, and also the fact that you can’t “justify” ignoring the will of the people… Rumors were that some on the board would use COVID as an excuse to eliminate me or if that didn’t work, equity would be used. (Wonder why some don’t want me on the board?) Rumors are just rumors-until they aren’t… You see, where I grew up, based on what I have stated, we call that being a hypocrite. Therefore, either resign and correct it, or just wear the scarlet H from now on…”

Tippett announced Saturday night he would be a candidate for the school board in 2022.

“The fact that I refused to follow along with the status quo, be a part of the establishment, or change who I am probably cost me votes last time and it probably will again. I may not win the next election, but I will have my integrity intact.”

I will always do what is correct, not politically correct, and I will always respect the seat of the people. I will not apologize for my conservative values or Christian beliefs. I would rather not win than sell out to the system, because it isn’t a power thing, it’s a service thing,” Mr. Tippett said.

“I look forward to running against Sutton and Sessoms if they choose to run for reelection. I look forward to sharing my goals, proposals, and solutions and seeing their list of accomplishments and let the people decide who will represent them.”

Clck here to read Terry Tippett’s full comments


  1. I’m very glad that this additional step has been taken, but sadly it appears to be a symbolic gesture of appeasement by Mr. Sutton to placate the throngs of Johnstonians who have written and spoke out against the circus he is running.

  2. Folks have you ever notice how attitudes will change when the one that holds all the cards AKA Todd Sutton senses that they may be a plan out here to change this school board. Ronald Johnson and the Johnston County Republican Party has got to endorse only one candidate per seat that is open. This will allow us who can change this board know who to fall inline with, oh I know the School Board has to be non-partisan they will cry out! All we have on this board other than Ron Johnson is liberal progressive liberals Socialist/Communist Democrats. Mr. Tippett good luck but the only way you will be appointed is that someone has found evidence Todd Sutton knew Tracie Zukowski wasn’t living in Johnston County sense August and from what I hear Facebook was loaded with this evidence.

  3. I think what Sutton is afraid of is possible legal action by Tippett. The board attorney probably told them as much. So now they come up with this guise to include Tippett in the interview process. If you look at the ballots it’s obvious who five of the board members want. Al Byrd’s name was at the top of the ballots. You can bet the farm that Al Byrd will be filling the vacant school board seat. The board is just covering their rear end by including Tippett now.

  4. Now WE must see this thru and continue the movement until the local Chuck and Nancy are no longer running the school board. It would be extremely naive to not consider the possibly of some voting shenanigans though. Based off the past actions of a select few, its obvious they wield a good amount of power and influence. Do not underestimate what these people are willing to do since they were essentially just handed the “guarantee win” playbook from Washington DC. Expect some unusual occurrences to happen during and after this election. Do not doubt me on this…

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