“Everybody should have their voice heard and not drowned out by a self proclaimed elite few.“
In his first comments to the media since being overlooked to fill a seat on the Johnston County Public School Board, Terry Tippett told Johnston County Report on Saturday the majority of the school board is not interested in what the majority of voters want, rather their own personal desires and interests. Tippett was the fifth highest vote-getter in the November 2020 elections where four seats were up for election.
When Tracie Zukowski resigned from her seat in January 2021, Mr. Tippett was one of 31 people who submitted letters of interest for the unexpired seat. Many expected Tippett to be appointed to Zukowski’s seat because of his strong finish.
In a surprise move Thursday night, the JCPS board narrowed the list of candidates from 31 to seven in a ballot vote. In a second ballot vote, the number was narrowed from seven to five. Tippett was not among the five finalists for the position.
After submitted a Public Records Request on Friday, Johnston County Report obtained copies of the first and second round ballots.
Click Here To See First Round Ballot Votes
Click Here To See Second Round Ballot Votes
Tippett only received first and second round ballot votes from Ronald Johnson and Lyn Andrews.
When Todd Sutton joined the school board in 2017 he was appointed to fill out the term of Larry Strickland who won election to the NC House. Sutton was the highest vote-getter not to win a seat in the Nov. 2016 elections, identical to Mr. Tippett in Nov. 2020. However, Sutton, who is now the Chairman, rejected using the same criteria that allowed him to be seated 4 years ago during Thursday nights special called meeting.
Mr. Tippett said Sutton’s decision has now made it personal and confirmed tonight (Saturday) he will be a candidate for the JCPS Board in 2022. Tippett says he may not win election in 2022 but his integrity, unlike some school board members, will be intact.
The following statement was released Saturday night by Mr. Tippett:
Before I begin, let me publically say Thank You for all the support I have received over the past three weeks and during the campaign last year. It is a humbling experience to have fellow Johnstonians go out of their way to show support for a retired EC teacher from Emit.
I saw the comments over the past three weeks, but didn’t think it was appropriate to respond and wanted to give the Board of Education(BOE) the respect it deserved as a body to do its’ work in filling the vacant position. I would like to publically thank Ronald Johnson and Lyn Andews for their support and respecting the will of the voters.
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. Hence, the campaign slogan from last year, “One Seat….Many Voices”.
Everybody should have their voice heard and not drowned out by a self proclaimed elite few. So again, Thank You!
The Selection Process
Chairman Sutton explained the selection process for filling the vacant position on the BOE. While one could question the process, how it came to be the process, who assisted in the process, or if discussions were held prior to the vote regarding voting blocks, Chairman Sutton broke no rules in the process he chose. The Chairman has that right-just as Chairman Wooten did after the 2016 election.
In looking back at the 2016 process, where Sutton finished in fifth (over 2000 votes from fourth) behind Johnson, Grant,and Smith, with Wooten as the Chair, the following statements were made: “Sutton was in fifth position in the general election, garnering more than 30,000 votes,….(Dr. Peggy Smith) and from the reporter, “Sutton stood out to the board as the next-highest vote-getter in the election and as an active campaigner and frequent visitor to the county’s school board meetings”.
Now, just for fun, let’s look at Sutton’s comment in a JoCo Report statement just a couple of weeks ago when justifying a pay raise, ” I am also aware that there others that will attempt to tell the citizens of Johnston County otherwise but also be aware that the majority of our citizens chose to elect each board member to serve on our BOE…” Well, seems kind of contrary to the current situation.
The record shows that the citizens gave me the next-highest votes, less than 3000 from third and 1600 from fourth. So, it seems the criteria has changed and the “majority of citizens” is no longer important, as it was after the 2016 election and for Sutton a couple of weeks ago.
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. I am in no way questioning the credentials of the applicants chosen-simply stating that the seat belongs to the people and the people have spoken. It is not the process Sutton chose that I question, it is the criteria used for a seat that is voted on by the people.
Sutton Should Resign
One could come to the conclusion that Sutton doesn’t feel that the format used or the criteria used in his appointment was fair-or wouldn’t that same criteria be used today, even if the process was different? I don’t know who assisted with the process, but certainly they and all current members, other than Johnson and Andrews must also feel the criteria from 2016 wasn’t fair-or the next-highest vote-getter would at least be on the final list.
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.
We Call That Being A Hypocrite
So, if equity is important now, can anyone argue that it wasn’t in 2017 when Sutton was appointed? Ironically enough, there was a very well qualified African American woman who ran in the election and applied for the seat after the 2016 election and was passed over by the board. Sutton accepted an appointed position on the board by criteria that he doesn’t support now and potentially took a seat that would have added diversity to the board.
I am sure the argument would be that he has since been elected by the people-but history can’t be rewritten, although it can be corrected.
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.
Many have encouraged legal action. After discussions, it seems that any legal action is tied to the Zukowski situation and if anyone on the BOE were aware of certain things. Based on the circumstantial evidence available and the FACT that I know at least one sitting member knew of the Zukowski house on the market before the election (I would gladly place my hand on the Bible if that is ever disputed), there is a fair possibility for an injunction to delay the process. I am pretty sure that it would not change the outcome, unless there is more than I believe there.
I do not know what the expectation is of a sitting board member if this information is known, unless collusion can be proven. Therefore, this process becomes more about me and that is not who I am. It would take away from the people I want to help-students, staff, parents, taxpayers. In this case, I don’t believe it is the thing to do-even though I admit it would interesting having some people answer under oath.
My hope is that this situation is looked at and people are held accountable if appropriate, but no one should be unfairly accused-that’s not who we are as a people. My hope is that appropriate county officials get involved, with or without a BOE request, to examine the facts and give the people some sort of confidence that issues have been addressed.
I fully believe that the will of the people has been violated, however, that can be corrected during the next election cycles.
They Have Made It Personal For Me
After the 2020 election, I stated that had been my window for running for office, but I said “never say never”. The vacancy opened and I followed the application process. Only Johnson and Andrews had the respect for the will of the people.
I knew I was not going to have four votes to be appointed, but to totally disrespect the voters in the manner they did speaks volumes. The talk of transparency, trust, and integrity is just that-talk. It is one slap in the face after another to the public-to the voter.
Regardless of who finished in fifth place a few months ago, don’t the voters deserve to have that person be in the final consideration? I don’t care if they like me-but to do that to the voters tells us where some on this board are in terms of being servants of the people. Yet, it is their right to vote in any manner they choose and it is your right to respond at the polls.
I Will Be A Candidate In 2022
To put it bluntly, they have made it personal for me. Therefore, after prayer and consideration, I look forward to running for one of the seats on the BOE in November 2022-one the people’s seats. I watched Sutton (with Sessoms and a former board member alongside) stand on the courthouse steps and make statements that were contradicted by a voter in the crowd with a stack of documentation and immediately after by another board member with documentation.
Without responding to the accuracy of anyone, my point is, this board is not any closer to transparency, integrity, and trust of the public than it was that day. It is as if the people don’t matter.
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.
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.
The Johnston County School Board will hold a special meeting Monday, Feb. 22nd to interview the five finalists for Zukowsi’s seat.