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George Page has resigned as Brunswick County Parks and Recreation director after 11 years. He will take a job in the private sector and leaves behind a long list of accomplishments.
Page’s last day was Tuesday, and he said this week he is proud of what he and his staff accomplished in the last 11 years, especially bringing a Special Olympics program to the county, expanding the county’s parks and obtaining grant funding for three new parks.
Page said it was difficult to leave, but he was offered a job he couldn’t pass up.
He’s been hired as a field representative in North and South Carolina for Musco Sports Lighting, an Iowa-based company that provides lighting for NASCAR races and major indoor sports arenas.
The job will allow him to do something he says is the best for himself and his 5-year-old-son Matthew—moving back to his home county, where his family and childhood friends are.
“If I can sell my house, I want to move to Columbus County. All my family is there,” he said.
He wants his son to be able to play outside with all his cousins and have his aunt teach his first-grade class at Cerro Gordo Elementary School, he said.
“What it’s all about for me is family,” Page said.
His home county has special memories for him and is where Page figured out what he wanted to do with his life. At the time he was working as a student with the Columbus County Parks and Recreation Department. There, he found his calling.
Page earned a degree from Western Carolina University while also working as the baseball team’s equipment manager.
“I learned to manage my time,” he recalled.
He worked for several years for Major League Baseball, first with the Greenville Braves and later in Omaha, Neb., for the Kansas City Royals Triple A team.
Page was hired as Brunswick County’s athletic coordinator in March 1997, and when then-director Johnny Williams resigned, the county manager named Page and Emma Thomas interim directors. In February 1998, Page was given the permanent job.
That summer, Brunswick County had its first-ever Special Olympics competition.
“They used to have ‘Challenge Day,’” Page recalled. “And every year, the county commissioners gave $5,000 to the state Special Olympics.”
When Page hired his new special populations coordinator, Tracy Young, he gave her one priority.
“I said ‘You have one vision—to start Special Olympics,’” he said.
The department worked together with Brunswick County Schools, Brunswick Community College Interagency Program (BIP) for adults with disabilities and with the Special Olympics representatives to put together a local Special Olympics.
“We had well over 250 athletes [the first year],” Page said.
“I’m very proud of the fact that we’re providing quality programs for our special needs citizens.”
When Page came on board, the county commissioners already had a vision to expand the county’s parks, buying extra land so there would be room for expansion.
Under Page’s leadership, additional soccer, baseball and multi-purpose fields have been built at all the county’s parks.
“Our multi-purpose fields have the quality of those on the college level,” Page said.
“That’s why we’ve been so fortunate in getting baseball, softball and soccer tournaments to come here.”
With the help of partners such as the county planning department and Cape Fear Resource Conversation and Development, Page helped secure nearly $1 million in grant money for new parks, including $500,000 for a park near Ocean Isle Beach, through a partnership with the town, $300,000 for the Brunswick Nature Park, a 911-acre tract near Leland acquired from the N.C. Land Trust, and $60,000 for Whitlock Landing, a new water access site in Winnabow.
Cynthia Tart, chairman of the Brunswick County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, has worked with Page since he was hired. She said this week his hard work and dedication are going to be missed.
“He’s passionate about parks and recreation,” Tart said. “He always had the heart of Brunswick County first for everything. He was always looking at the demand for services based on the growing population and trying to meet the needs.”
Page said he couldn’t have done what he did without the support of his staff, county administration, the county commissioners and the members of the parks and recreation advisory board.
“My teammates at parks and recreation and the commissioners are like family to me. We’ve been through a lot both professionally and personally,” he said.
“We’ve had economic downturns, and that’s when most counties and cities always cut back on parks and rec, but in Brunswick County, it’s always been one of the top priorities.”
sarah shew wilson is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.