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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Pender County Primaries 2024: Brad George vies for Board of Commissioners District 1 seat

Brad George hopes to retain his District 1 seat on the Pender County Board of Commissioners. (Courtesy photo)

PENDER 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

Republican Brad George, who works as a maintenance coordinator for Global Nuclear Fuels America, is running for one of three seats on the Pender County Board of Commissioners. George previously served on the Pender County Board of Education and was appointed by the GOP and voted on by the current BOC as a commissioners after Jimmy Tate stepped down last year. He will face off against Joe Cina in District 1 in the primary election, to take place March 5.

George’s 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 Pender County takes place at four locations: Shiloh Volunteer Fire Department (19170 US Hwy 421, Watha), Pender County Annex Building (15060 US Hwy 17, Hampstead), Pender County NC Coop Extension Auditorium (801 S. Walker St., Burgaw) and Surf City Community Center Gym (201 Community Center Dr.).

Early voting stops are open Feb. 15-16, 19-23, 26-29 and March 1, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and at 3 p.m. on Feb. 18, 24, and March 2.

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.).*

George’s 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.

Brad George (BG): As a lifelong resident of Pender and having served terms on the Board of Education, I had a front row seat to excessive burdens placed on all citizens of the county with the rapid residential growth. Burdens such a traffic, housing cost, taxes, overcrowded classrooms, the list goes on. So, having seen this I couldn’t complain if I didn’t try to correct.

I hope to encourage fellow commissioners to look at our outdated UDO, that hasn’t been updated since 2008, to complete and adopt a new comprehensive plan for the county, one that realizes that each area of the county is unique, and realizes that one size doesn’t fit all. To review our land use maps, considering those environmentally sensitive areas before they are all destroyed. To adopt a tree ordinance that is enforceable and recognizes that trees play an important part in our environment, from air quality to flooding. These are only a couple reasons — there is plenty more to work on.

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

BG: The current board is working hard to increase the economic growth in Pender County, with the Pender Commerce Park nearing completion they are pushing ahead with searching for the next opportunity to bring more commercial and industrial real estate and jobs to the county tax base. They realize that those type of investments are needed to help relieve some of the burden from the residential taxpayers.

PCD: What is the top priority you’re campaigning on and why?

BG: Controlled planned growth, both residential, industrial, and commercial. Unfortunately, the unexpected rapid growth in eastern Pender has had lasting effects to the whole county. Pender will be playing catchup for several years to come. 

The current water system is maxed, and while a new membrane plant, new wells and new towers are in the works that won’t take place over night. With having to focus so much on providing to current customer it takes way for those in other areas that may not be growing at the rapid pace.

The schools in eastern Pender are above capacity, not only does this create an issue of needing new schools, but it also reduces the available resources and funding to maintain other areas of the district that are in desperate need of replacement or repair, including the administrative and maintenance facilities.

PCD: Pender County is growing at a rate of nearly 1.3% annually. How do you plan to keep pace in terms of jobs and housing, while also balancing quality of life for residents? Are there ideas that haven’t yet been considered?

BG: I feel stronger focus on economic growth and development is needed to help recruit more commercial business to Pender; 58% of Pender residents work outside of the county. The majority of those working in another county also shop in that county Pender is losing millions year in sales taxes.I would like to see the county invest in an Economic development director whose sole function is working to bring those jobs to Pender. 

With a new look at possible overlay districts in certain areas of the county, work on the plan’s ordinances listed earlier we can work on a balance of residential and commercial. Creating a county where you can shop, work and live helps enhance the quality of life. 

PCD: How would you approach environmental concerns regarding new industrial manufacturing businesses in Pender, such as the potential new industrial site in western part of the county?

BG: At the current time of answering this questionnaire the Commissioner have not been presented with this request. I feel it would be improper for me to speculate of any intentions of the applicant.

PCD: County commissioners recently approved a second flood-related buyout program to assist residents impacted by hurricanes. How would you plan future development to mitigate flood concerns?

BG: Revamping of the land use map using current flood data and updating zoning classification could help control the types of future development in those areas with historical flooding issues.

PCD: How would you work to mitigate traffic concerns for Pender residents — such as the Malpass Corner and US 421 intersection and the new school site near the intersection of Hwy 210 and NC 17 — as the county rapidly expands?

BG: As with all highways in North Carolina outside of incorporated areas that task falls under the Department of Transportation. The commissioners will continue to lobby that entity on behalf of the citizens to make those areas and any other areas as safe as possible. 

PCD: Do you think the board of education is adequately funded? 

BG: In 2007 local tax funding allocation for “current expense” equaled $12,677,590 with a student enrollment of 8,146 students. The 2014 Local tax funding allocation for “current expense” equaled $12,975,623 with a student enrollment of 8,774 students. 

In 2007 local tax funding allocation for “capital expense” equaled $2,677,590, That same allocation was reduced to $1,110,000 in 2014 with the opening of a new 1,400 student capacity high school during those years.

In 2023 local funding allocation for “current expense” equaled $23,497,509 with a student enrollment of 11,187 students.

In 2023 local tax funding allocation for “capital expense” equaled $2,917,084.

I currently don’t feel that Pender County schools is adequately funded, I feel the years listed above with stagnant funding put us behind. There have been great strides in the last few years to increase, but as with other things once behind hard to play catchup.

There are 115 public school districts in North Carolina Pender is ranked 110th overall in per pupil sending according to John Locke Foundation 2021-2022 Per Pupil Expenditure Ranking. 

Even with these challenges it’s still one of the premier districts in the state and nationally recognized. 

PCD: Where might it be lacking and how do you think the commissioners should address this shortage?

BG: As noted above the capital expense funding has continued to remain stagnant while the district has opened several school campuses, the remaining campuses continue to age and lack the proper preventive measure to keep them fully functional increasing the end cost.

While great efforts have been made to bring the local supplement up to compete with surrounding counties, we have since returned to middle of the pack, currently ranking 46th out of 100 counties. 2021 we ranked 20th.

With the current needs of the county, expanding schools, law enforcement center, additional law enforcement staff, new health and human services complex, new library among several other projects, the commissioners will be tasked with prioritizing while maintaining a balanced budget.

PCD: Did you support the current commissioners’ decision to sell the hospital in Burgaw to Novant? Explain.

BG: This is a difficult answer to present, as a commissioner yes, I supported with my vote the transfer of Pender Memorial to Novant. The county had waited until the very end to explore other options posing a risk of losing the hospital in western Pender. With the conditions placed into the transfer, one of which is Pender appoints majority of the board of directors, and several milestones that must be met to avoid triggering any reversionary clause, I feel more comfortable with my decision.

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

BG: I feel the current tax rate is too high as does everyone else, no one likes taxes.  As of August, Pender ranked 70th, making us one of the highest 30 counties in state.  

During budget development it will be critical to work with department directors, and finance to develop a balanced budget without impacting taxes, while at the same time continuing to move the county 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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