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Q&A: Andrews Reflects On Leadership

By Beth A. Klahre, posted Mar 15, 2024
David Andrews, who is retiring as Pender County’s manager, said he believes listening to other viewpoints is “extremely important” to whether a leader is successful. (Photo by Madeline Gray)
Pender County Manager David Andrews is slated to retire this summer after 33 years in local government, saying he’s ready to spend more time with his family.

Andrews brought many strengths to his Pender County role, including budgeting and financial expertise, economic development, strategic planning and leadership.

Andrews, originally from Texas, is a graduate of the University of Arizona with a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Stephen F. Austin State University. Andrews began his career in the city of South Tucson, Arizona, as a finance director in the 1990s. Prior to coming to Pender County in September of 2022, Andrews was the town manager for Boiling Spring Lakes and town manager for Carrboro for more than 10 years.  

Thirty-three years is a long time. What kept you in city government roles for this long?

Andrews: “When I was younger, I heard a wise person say that if you do something you enjoy, you will never have to work a day in your life. I like that saying, but I think it is only half correct. I stayed in local government throughout my career because I have enjoyed it, but it has been a lot of long hours and lots of hard work. But I enjoy hard work and challenges. 
I have thoroughly enjoyed my career over the past 33 years. 

I became interested in local government while living in Austin, Texas. The capital of Texas was experiencing tremendous growth at that time. I believed that local government management was something that I could understand and that I could help communities to achieve economic prosperity while protecting their quality of life and natural resources.” 

What did you learn/experience in your very first role as finance director in Tucson that you brought with you to your East Coast roles?

Andrews: “I was working in a suburb of Tucson, which grew by about 40,000 people or 600% over a 20-year period. I learned the importance of working with the private sector as well as other state and local governments to develop infrastructure such as water, sewer and roadways ahead of the growth to avoid potential overloaded capacities due to that growth. 

At the time, I was the youngest municipal CFO in the state and worked with developers and investment bankers to finance over $100 million in municipal bonds to fund growth-related infrastructure and public facilities.

I enjoyed the fast pace. I was fortunate enough to work for communities that valued arts and culture, environmental protection and recreational opportunities.” 

What attributes have you never compromised on that contributed to your success?

Andrews: “I believe that listening to other points of view is extremely important. It has been my goal to achieve positive outcomes and community successes.

That means listening to people’s concerns and assuming responsibility for clear communications. There is also no substitute for hard work and the willingness to learn from your mistakes.” 

What are your biggest accomplishments in Pender County?

Andrews: “Voters approved school bonds in 2022, and the Pender County School District will be breaking ground on a new K-8 school within this calendar year. I worked closely with county staff to identify and acquire the land for the site to avoid school overcrowding.

I have listened to developer concerns and have worked closely with county staff to ensure adequate water and sewer supplies to meet the demands of residential and commercial growth. I’m hopeful that Pender will have successful updates to its comprehensive land use plan and water and sewer master plans over the next 18-24 months to outline a path for economic prosperity and high-quality growth over the next few decades.”  

What capital improvement project makes you most proud?

Andrews: “I am most proud of the acquisition and merger of two privately held water companies back in the mid-’90s. 

We were approached by two different developer-owners who asked us to buy their systems. They wanted to continue to build residential and commercial properties but wanted out of the water service business due to the technical and legal complexities of water issues in the Western United States. 

Despite public doubts about our abilities to successfully acquire, merge and operate the facilities, we were able to provide high-quality water at affordable rates and acquire water rights for long-term growth.” 

What advice do you have for the next county manager?

Andrews: “I think the next county manager will enjoy working with the kind-hearted citizens and dedicated employees. Most of the people that I have met are good and honest people who value hard work and appreciate the services that Pender County provides. 

Most county employees work very hard with limited resources but enjoy the opportunities to learn and grow.”
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