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SMITHFIELD — Three outgoing Johnston County commissioners were honored during the Nov. 5 board meeting.
District 5 Commissioner Cookie Pope, who decided not to seek re-election, has served on the board since 1994. District 7 Commission Allen Mims Jr. was defeated in the May 8 primary by Clayton Town Commisisoner Butch Lawter. He has served since 1998.
District 6 Commissioner Lee Jackson was appointed to the board in November 2017 to fill unexpired term of former Commissioner Lee Branch. Jackson was defeated in the May 8 primary by former Commissioner Tony Braswell.
“Since Cookie and Allen were elected, in addition to countless committees and other related county government functions too numerous to count, when combined together, they have attended roughly 1,400 county commissioner meetings,” Chairman Jeff Carver said. “In the time since both Allen and Cookie were elected, this county has grown tremendously.”
Carver said the county has seen the construction of more than $500 million in new school and community college projects during Pope and Mims’ tenures.
“Johnston County’s population has grown from 93,384 in 1994 to an estimated 196,708 in 2017. Both Allen and Cookie have been directly involved with successful economic development projects such as the $1.2 billion Novo Nordisk expansion in Clayton along with multi-million dollar expansions at Grifols and many other industry announcements over the years that have provided jobs for our citizens,” said Carver. “We have seen our bond rating increase steadily over the years to where we are one step away from being a AAA-rated county, which has saved the taxpayers millions of dollars.”
Jackson quickly became an integral part of the board, said Carver.
“With his financial expertise, Lee has provided us with advice and guidance regarding many issues, one of which was our recent merger of Johnston County Mental Health with Alliance Behavioral Healthcare and we sincerely appreciate his willingness to continue to represent Johnston County as a citizen representative on the Alliance board,” Carver said. “This past year has been very busy and we have been blessed that Lee was able to be a part of numerous important issues that will see our county continue to grow. Even though he will no longer be serving on this board, we hope to still call on his knowledge and willingness to help.”
Pope said getting along with a male-dominated board for 24 year was like dealing with her sons and grandsons.
“I tell them what to do and they do it,” said Pope. “I told a reporter once when he asked me if I’d make this career, ‘Absolutely not.’ I said I’d serve eight years maximum and I’ve been here 24.”
“Johnston County gets better every year,” said Mims. “ A lot of people wonder why I stayed. It’s because this is where my heart is. I’m appreciative of the ones who voted for me and the county staff.”
“We’ve mostly been on the same side,” said Vice Chairman Ted Godwin. “When we weren’t, I always valued your opinions.”
Commissioner Chad Stewart said Pope and Mims have been like family.
“You served with my daddy (the late Wade Stewart),” said Stewart. “It was an extreme honor when you appointed me in my daddy’s absence.”
County Manager Rick Hester expressed gratitude for all three outgoing commissioners.
“Thank you both for all you’ve done for me,” said Hester. “We’ll miss you.”
Incoming commissioners Lawter, Braswell and Patrick Harris, who succeeds Pope, will be sworn in Dec. 3 at the Johnston County Courthouse.