Friday, March 1, 2024

Pender GOP taps Brad George for commissioner seat

Brad George (courtesy Pender County Schools)

PENDER COUNTY — Brad George is slated to trade in one elected position for another as he migrates from the Pender County school board to the county’s board of commissioners.

George was tapped as the Pender County Republican Party’s nominee to fill a vacancy for district 1 left by Jimmy Tate late last month. The party’s executive committee, made up of a consortium of Republicans throughout the county, elected George with a simple majority of votes Monday evening.

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Port City Daily has requested a recording of the meeting and a membership list for the executive committee from the Pender County GOP, but did not receive either by press.

North Carolina law requires the commissioners to appoint the party’s nominee. Pender is one of a list of counties which is covered by a special appointment statute. In most counties an appointment would be at the discretion of the commissioners, but in Pender the party of the resignee can nominate a fellow party member within 30 days of a vacancy being created and the commissioners are compelled to follow the nomination.

George is in the midst of his second term on the school board. He won reelection in 2020 and served as board chair until fellow BOE member Ken Smith was appointed to the position in December.

He intends to step down to take a commissioners seat.

“I applied for it so I went in with the intention, if I received the job, to take it,” George said.

George said he informed his board of education colleagues — members of the executive committee as well — in advance of his application.

He considered running for a commissioner seat last year but said the timing was not right. Last spring the county purchased a 182-acre property to construct a new elementary and middle school, but it was deemed inappropriate in September, due to WHAT. 

George was focused on promoting the school bond that will pay for the new facilities, whcih passed in November. Commissioners are still attempting to acquire an appropriate location. Last month they revealed negotiations are taking place with a developer. 

George intends to continue advocating for the district within the commissioners’ ranks, especially ensuring the bond projects come to fruition.

Overcrowding issues in the Pender County district continue to mount. Schools in the eastern part of the county are filled beyond capacity and the district is enrolling hundreds more students each year. 

In January, first during a school board meeting — and later during a joint meeting with the commissioners — George said the district will need a new bond every two years to keep pace.

Tate, still in his seat at the time, also expressed concern that the county is only building schools “to capacity.”

George said Tuesday it seems like the schools are building for the past rather than the future.

Currently, the school district has about 11,000 students enrolled. It endured slow and steady growth from 2010 to 2020, but gained 600 students in 2021 and has added about 900 more since.

Pender County Schools is currently a draw for the county because of its sterling academic reputation, shown in its strong test scores and 93% graduation rate, 6% higher than the state average. If overcrowding worsens, George fears schools could suffer, the time it takes for students to get to and from school could get longer, and drive people away from the area. It also could hollow out the tax base.

“One of our neighboring counties, Columbus County, they’re consolidating schools every year,” George said. “So it’s right next door to us. Growth is good, but it has to be controlled growth.”

Pender County’s population has increased from 52,000 residents to about 63,000 in the past 10 years. George sees the area’s popularity as a good thing but said infrastructure needs time to catch up.

“Not that I’m against growth,” he added.

He did mention taking a closer look at zoning ordinances to slow down development

and noted the board should not freely rezone parcels in the eastern part of the county to accommodate new multifamily projects

Among other issues he is concerned about is supplemental funding to pay school district employees and improving quality of life in the county.

“My mother’s family has been here since the 1700s,” George said. “I’m deeply rooted here.”

Commissioners did not respond to a request for comment by press.

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