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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Former Pender County commissioner returns to the dais, fills resigned board member’s vacancy

Dr. Jimmy Tate was sworn in Monday night to fill the district 1 Pender County Commissioner seat, left vacant by vice chair David Williams’ resignation. (Courtesy)

PENDER COUNTY — A new county commissioner was sworn in Monday night at the Pender County public assembly room during a commissioners’ meeting.

Republican Dr. Jimmy Tate is filling a vacancy, earlier than expected, after District 1 commissioner vice chair David Williams resigned in July.

READ MORE: 2022 Primary Election: Jimmy Tate runs for Pender County Commissioner for District 1

Williams left his position prior to his term’s expiration in December 2022 to care for his ill mother. His last meeting was July 11, after serving on the board for more than 15 years. In the most recent election in 2018, Williams beat out Democratic opponent Morgan Lashaw, with 12,399, or 60%, of the votes.

Tate is no stranger to the role of commissioner; he served on the board for nearly eight years, between 2008 and 2015. He was first elected as a Democrat and then-youngest member and reupped for a second term in 2012. Tate resigned in 2015 to assume the role of vice president at James Sprunt Community College in Duplin County.

Tate said he left the college system in 2017 and went on to become chief of staff at UNC. He’s now the president of Mt. Calvary Center for Leadership Development, which has locations in Burgaw, Wilmington and Wallace.

“I was fortunate to have been to college, but a lot of people I know didn’t,” Tate explained to Port City Daily. “I learned about the recidivism rate, especially for people who look like me, and wanted to do something to change that.”

Mt. Calvary offers programs to first-time offenders, both adults and juveniles, to assist with attaining needed workforce skills and employment opportunities.

Helping others was the main reason Tate chose to run again for an elected seat.

“I saw a need and a way I can make a difference helping everyone,” he said, “and provide opportunities to make our county even better.”

He secured his standing this year against Republican opponent Joseph Cina in the May primaries, eking out a win with roughly 350 more votes. In Pender County, 17% of voters turned out to the polls, equating to 8,092 of 45,974 registered citizens. Tate earned 3,117 of the votes — 53% — against Cina’s 2,750, or 47%. 

Without a Democratic opponent, Tate’s primary win secures his seat on the board.

In response to his political party switch, Tate said he doesn’t believe in “big government” or too much control from executive powers. More so, his economic values align more with Republicans.

“When I was on the board before, I voted with a lot of the Repbulicans on fiscal issues,” he said. “So the change for me was for two reasons: I like the Repbulicans’ stance on taxes and funding, and for me, personally, I believe Christianity should be respected.”

While he quickly said he understands religion is valued by both parties, he also said when he began working at Mt. Calvary, he was openly attacked for calling it a “Christian-based organization.” Most of the criticism, he explained, came from left-leaning individuals.

Tate ran on a platform noting the county’s greatest challenges are infrastructure, growth, development and education. 

“Growth is coming, and we have to be prepared and make sure it is smart growth, which includes the business and residential sectors,” he told Port City Daily in April. “I have dealt successfully with these issues in the past and will do so again.”

He said “halting or stopping” development is not an option.

“We have to be mindful of the people living here; you can’t just let unfettered growth occur to help keep taxes down, but you can’t stop growth and let taxes rise.”

Finding a balance between analyzing the tax rates imposed on residents, while considering the funds needed to provide adequate services in the county is the goal, he added.

Commissioner Jackie Newton, filling in for board chair David Piepmeyer during Monday’s meeting, explained that by N.C. General Statute there is a certain process the county must follow to fill the vacancy of an elected official.

Since Williams was elected as a Republican, the Pender County Republican Party had 30 days to announce a nominee to take his place.

“The party has spoken, and their designee is Dr. Jimmy Tate,” Newton said before Judge Kent Harrell administered the oath of office, with Tate’s sister and two nieces by his side.

After being sworn in Monday night, Tate spoke for about 10 minutes, acknowledged all the dignitaries in the room and thanked everyone for their support.

“I’m back,” he said to the standing-room only crowd as he took his spot at the dais. 

Tate will serve a four-year term, slated to end in 2026.

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