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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Brunswick County Primaries 2024: Pat Sykes runs for commissioner seat District 3

Pat Sykes will be a part of the primary election in Brunswick County, for commissioner District 3 seat. (Courtesy photo)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — 2024 is a presidential election year but also one that impacts numerous local boards — such as county commissioners and education districts in the tri-county region.

READ MORE: Here is who filed for the 2024 elections

Current commissioner for District 3, Republican Pat Sykes is running for one of three seats on the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners. She will face off against Republican Jwantana Gardner Frink in District 3 in the primary election, to take place March 5.

Sykes’ stances on issues are discussed below. All answers are included in full; responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.

Port City Daily has compiled candidate questionnaires so voters can read up on contenders’ stances before heading to the polls. The paywall is dropped on profiles to help voters make informed decisions ahead of casting their ballots.

Voters will choose which candidates from their registered party they want to move forward in the formal election — or those who are registered unaffiliated can choose which party’s primary they want to vote in. After the March 5 primaries, Election Day will be Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2024; a valid photo ID will be needed to cast a ballot in both. 

Anyone not registered to vote can partake in same-day registration, available throughout the early voting period, Feb. 15 – Mar. 2. Check here to see if your registration is active at your current address.

Early voting in Brunswick County takes place at five locations: the Cooperative Extension at the Government center (25 Referendum Dr. in Bolivia), Leland Cultural Arts Center (1212 Magnolia Village Way), Brunswick Center at Southport (1513 N. Howe St.), Brunswick Center at Shallotte (3620 Express Dr.) and Sunset Beach Community Center (200 Station Trail).

Early voting at the Cooperative Extension is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 15-16, 19-23, and 26-Mar. 1, and on Mar. 2, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The other locations are open: 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 15-16, 19-23, 26-Mar. 1, and on Saturday, Feb. 17 and 24, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., and Mar. 2, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. The locations open one Sunday, Feb. 18, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.  

Below is a breakdown of dates to expect ahead of the primary election:

  • Jan. 19, 2024: County boards of elections begin mailing absentee ballots to eligible voters who submitted an absentee ballot request form.
  • Feb. 9, 2024: Voter registration deadline (5 p.m.).*
  • Feb. 15, 2024: In-person early voting begins.
  • Feb. 27, 2024: Absentee ballot request deadline (5 p.m.).*
  • March 2, 2024: In-person early voting ends (3 p.m.).
  • March 5, 2024: Primary Election Day.
  • March 5, 2024: Absentee ballot return deadline (7:30 p.m.).*

Sykes’ questionnaire is below; all candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. 

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Port City Daily (PCD): Tell us the reason you wanted to run for a commissioner seat.

Pat Sykes (PS): I am running again because as a native of Brunswick, I care about and love Brunswick County. I have concerns about higher taxes, clear-cutting of our land, and ensuring we have clean drinking water among other issues. I love serving the citizens. In addition, with the support of my family, citizens have asked me to run again. I told them I would pray about it and then I made the decision. This will be my final term and I have a lot more to offer the county and the citizens.

PCD: What is the current board of commissioners getting right? Wrong?

PS: Not sure if I can answer right or wrong, that would depend on how each citizen looks at the board’s votes and if they understand the big picture. Did I always vote with the other four commissioners? No. I think for myself, and I try to always vote with the people’s wishes in mind. All I can address is how I voted and why.

For example, I voted against the tax increase, voted against wasteful spending — I supported changing the development ordinance to protect the county as it grows, I supported the schools in BC, I support law enforcement while voting to make spending accountable. I support keeping taxes low, spending money wisely and using common sense.

PCD: What do you think of the current tax rates? How will you balance taxes with identifying funding for top-of-mind issues?

PS: I voted against the tax rate. I fought hard that the county should have stayed with revenue neutral with such high revaluations. Yes, we have one of the lowest tax rates in the state, but property valuations are one of the highest too. The county gets revenue from different areas including property tax, local sales tax, permits and fees, fund balance appropriation, investment earnings, etc. What I have seen repeatedly since becoming county commissioner is the county budget is never followed and money is taken out of fund balance all year long to pay for things that could wait till the next year’s budget or things that are wanted not needed. But if there is truly a need, then I have no problem voting to move ahead.

PCD: Development is booming in Brunswick County — for example, more than 3,700 units cumulatively were proposed for the southern part of the county in November. How do you think officials should balance this unprecedented growth, while maintaining quality of life and upkeep of infrastructure, such as roads and particularly utilities, such as Brunswick County Public Utilities?

PS: You cannot stop growth; however, you can slow it down. I have requested on numerous occasions that the Unified Development Ordinance needed to be reviewed and changed. According to staff they are looking at it. Of course, I do believe in private property rights, but I am opposed to clear cutting when other options are available. We voted to approve Blueprint Brunswick 2040, which showed that citizens were against clear cutting. The county is changing, and we need to plan with a thoughtful, purposeful, and clear process to protect the county we love. On the flip side, development is important to the county because it brings jobs and tax revenue.

PCD: Should Brunswick County leaders be doing more to ensure residents are being provided PFAS-free water and Chemours is held accountable? What exactly?

PS: I believe the county has done everything we could to ensure residents are being provided PFAS-free water. Brunswick County leaders recognize that high quality water is very important to our customers and residents. Brunswick County moved forward with a low-pressure reverse osmosis plant because it was one of the most advanced and effective methods to treat and remove PFAS. As you know, the county sued Chemours, but that will take years to be litigated and resolved. But we will continue to fight and provide clean water for the citizens of Brunswick County.

PCD: The Northwest Water Treatment Plant’s low pressure reverse osmosis facility has faced repeated delays, slowing residents’ access to clean drinking water. How would you ensure the timely completion of this project?

PS: Yes, we have faced repeated delays; however this is a bigger project than H2GO’s reverse osmosis plant. Brunswick County had contracts in place before COVID to add on to the water treatment plant and to build the reverse osmosis plant. COVID created numerous problems to include material, parts, and labor. I have toured the plant, and the board and I have emphasized the plant needs to get finished. I will continue to work hard and do whatever is necessary to get the completion of the reverse osmosis plant as soon as possible.

PCD: A North Carolina Board of Transportation official and WMPO member indicated state legislators would consider discretionary funding for the replacement of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge if local stakeholders at least considered a toll. Do you agree with this, and would you support a toll? Explain.

PS: I am not on the WMPO board. You will have to ask Brunswick Commissioners Williams and Forte, so without knowing all the information it is hard to say. However, if it comes down to making the way across the river safer and to getting a replacement quicker it might not be out of the question. And if it were to happen then we need to use a United States contractor.

PCD: Though Brunswick County commissioners pulled financial support for carrying the debt of a potential Leland baseball stadium, do you support it coming to the county? Explain.

PS: For the ones that love baseball many would love to have a stadium here. But to take taxpayer money to build it, then give it to a league is a wrong way to spend taxpayer’s hard-earned money. So, in cases like this I always ask: “Is this a government responsibility? Is it a need or a want?” The answer is clear to me. So, it is not going to happen with my vote. It would have to go on the ballot for a vote from the citizens, and they should know taxes would have to go up to pay for it.

PCD: Do you think the board of education is adequately funded? Where might it be lacking and how do you think the commissioners should address this shortage?

PS: The Board of Commissioners have a contract with the Board of Education. The Chair and Vice-Chair of the Board of Commissioners meet with two Board of Education members and the Superintendent. We have a contract from the fiscal year 2021-2022 through 2024-2025. It will be up to the Board of Education to let us know what their needs are. We have always worked together on any issue the school has brought forward.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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