Football shapes the life of Citizen of the Year Mike WootenFebruary 03, 2011
SMITHFIELD, NC - The Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce has named Michael Carroll Wooten its 2010 Citizen of the Year.
Mike Wooten was born in Roanoke, Virginia and moved to Johnston County in 1969 when his father was hired as an assistant principal at the newly completed Smithfield-Selma High School. While a student at Smithfield-Selma, Mike excelled in football, wrestling and track from 1978-81.
Football, especially, has had a very special place in the life of Mike Wooten. He was an all-state and all-conference selection in football at tight end and defensive end, playing in the North-South All-Star Game after his senior season. He received a full football scholarship to Virginia Military Institute.
He played center at VMI from 1981-85. He was selected his senior year as co-captain and received Division II pre-season all-American honors. In 1985, he was named the all-state senior for all Virginia colleges and graduated with a degree in economics before being commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Army, later receiving an honorable discharge.
After graduating from college in 1985, Mike signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins. He was released at the last cut but was later called back by Joe Gibbs in 1987 to play during the NFL strike. During the '87 season, the Redskins were able to win three conference games to launch Washington into the Super Bowl. Although the strike team known as the "scabs" was not part of the team during the Super Bowl, they played a very important part of that season. Occasionally you can see Mike wearing that Super Bowl ring.
Wooten began officiating football in 1986 for middle and high school games. Opportunities led him into the college football officiating ranks at the Division II level before moving into the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2003. He currently serves as an umpire, located behind the defensive line and linebackers, and has received post-season games for a number of seasons, calling the Texas Bowl, the Cotton Bowl Classic, and the ACC Championship game. He also called the Army-Navy game in 2005.
He was named to the Johnston County Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. At the induction ceremony, Mike said, "It's not about what I've done. Athletics is about building relationships - Relationships between player and team, player and coach, player and family and player and official. Coaches and my family didn't invest time in me for the money. For all the people that invested in me, I can't give it back, which makes me truly blessed."
Mike has been very active in the local community. He has 20 plus years of banking experience. He is currently employed by Four Oaks Bank and Trust in Smithfield and is the city executive. He is a former member of the Smithfield Town Council and a former volunteer fireman with the Smithfield Fire Department. He has been an active member of the Chamber, having served on the Board of Directors and the Economic Development Committee. He also has been a member of the Smithfield Parks and Recreation advisory board, a coach for numerous youth teams, campaign chairman for Habitat for Humanity Bankers Build and an active member of the Princeton Church of God.
In 2008 Mike was elected to the Johnston County Board of Education. During the campaign, he said, “I think the most critical issue facing our school system is safe schools. Parents and kids need to know that they are releasing their children to safe schools and that the children are going to be educated in safe environments. We all need to make sure our children are protected. This all starts with the Principals, who develop and educate theirs staffs to properly educate and protect our children. The development of the deputies on school sites has greatly secured our schools and gives teachers freedom to teach and students to learn in a comfortable learning environment.”
Mike has brought a wide variety of experience to the school board. He is a graduate of the Johnston County Schools, and his wife, is a schoolteacher at Princeton Elementary. He says, “I have a lot invested in the Johnston County school system not only with family, but also throughout my life, dealing with school related programs and speaking engagements.”
His years of banking experience have developed a good understanding of budgets and fiscal responsibility that is a necessity for the continued growth of the school system, especially in these difficult financial times. Most importantly though, Mike has a passion and love for children. He wants each child to be successful and that starts with a quality education.
Mike is willing to step into the middle of a stampede, whether it’s on the football field or in a contentious school board meeting. It takes a special breed of person and a passion for kids to do either one. He can be fearless but also doesn’t mind being anonymous. As long as the job is completed, he doesn’t care who gets the credit.
Mike is married to his wife Paula and they have two children, Michael and Meredith. Mike Wooten has been an inspiration for many citizens because of his leadership and his deeds, on and off the field.
Photo: Mike Wooten (left) with 2010 Chamber Board Chair Chris Key.