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Incumbent Brad George and challenger Joe Cina face off in a Republican primary for Pender County Board of Commissioners District 1

Brad George and Joe Cina are running in Pender County’s District One, which includes North Hampstead, Topsail, and Surf City.

George works as a maintenance coordinator for Global Nuclear Fuels America; he's a lifetime Hampstead resident and former Pender County Board of Education member, who became the chair of the Board of Commissioners after being appointed last year.

He said one of his top concerns is uncontrolled growth, especially “the strain that it is putting on not only the systems — such as the water system, the school system, our health department — but also the strain that is putting on the resident's for having to pretty much carry that burden on their back with increased taxes."

Cina, a former law enforcement officer who currently runs a small business, said he’d like to see more funding for the Sheriff’s Office to help Highway Patrol cover the sheer size of Pender County.

“The county is the fifth largest county in the state," Cina said. "So what if they have a collision in Atkinson? And now we got one on Highway 17. How long does it take for that Trooper to get across the entire county?"

Cina also said he was concerned about the lack of coordination and cooperation between the county's school board and commissioners.

"How are they supposed to work together as a partnership to address concerns when they only meet one time a year," Cina said. "I want to open up that communication between the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners to where it's more than a once-a-year meeting. It needs to be at least quarterly, if not even more often, to build a stronger relationship and work together because the commissioners obviously supply the budget to the Board of Education."

Another major concern for George and Cina is the county’s lack of commercial development, especially for small businesses – asked to give the county a grade on economic development – both gave Pender a C.

The lack of commercial development has burdened the county with higher taxes, struggling infrastructure — and difficulty competing with surrounding counties to retain employees.

George said he'd love to see an economic development director position created who could help small businesses navigate their start-up process.

"For the smaller mom and pops, it's hard for them to get a start in Pender County because there's nowhere for them to go. They chase their tail trying to find out where to go for permits, where to go for help," George said. "Maybe veterans can get grant funds — and you know, who shows them where to look for grant funding to start a new small business?"

Whoever wins after next Tuesday’s primary will face Democrat Jim Harris in the November general election.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.