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Hope Mills hires McLaughlin as permanent town manager


Hope Mills commissioners swore in their official town manager, Chancer McLaughlin — who previously served in the interim position — during Monday's board meeting.

New permanent town manager

  • What happened: After meeting in a closed session, citing attorney-client privilege, the board unanimously approved hiring Chancer McLaughlin as the permanent town manager.
  • McLaughlin was sworn in by his father, Robert McLaughlin. Robert McLaughlin was mayor of Wagram in 2023 and previously served on the board of commissioners for the town. Wagram is 35 minutes west of Hope Mills in Scotland County.
  • Why it matters: McLaughlin has served as interim town manager since Feb. 6 after former Town Manager Scott Meszaros abruptly resigned. McLaughlin also served as the town’s planning director, economic development director and development services director, overseeing code enforcement, all while being the interim town manager. He has been with town staff since 2015.
  • Mayor Jessie Bellflowers said that while he understands some concern from citizens who wanted the position to be advertised prior to the meeting, he believes it wouldn’t have benefitted the board, nor taxpayers’ money, to look for a candidate who wasn’t McLaughlin. Bellflowers also said McLaughlin exceeded his recent performance evaluation and will continue to lead this town to success.
  • McLaughlin is the first African American to be hired as Hope Mills’ town manager.

New picnic shelters approved for Reid’s Journey Inclusive Play Complex

  • What happened: The board unanimously approved McLaughlin to negotiate and enter into a contract with Carolina Parks & Play to install a picnic shelter at the Reid’s Journey Inclusive Play Complex.
  • Why it matters: The budgeted amount for the picnic shelter is $75,000.
  • In the last board commissioners meeting, the board unanimously approved reappropriating $200,000 from a budget item for investing in the town’s baseball fields to complete phase two of the town’s Reid’s Journey Inclusive Play Complex. As part of phase two for the inclusive playground and splash pad, the department wants to install picnic tables.
  • The playground is located at 5766 Rockfish Road, behind the town hall. 

Committee updates

  • What happened: Each commissioner of the board gave an update on each committee they respectively serve on.
  • Joanne Scarola: Commissioner Scarola did not give updates from the Veteran Affairs Committee because the committee did not have a quorum. The Cumberland County Air Quality Ambassadors Committee discussed the recent Code Red for the local air quality due to a nearby fire. The committee will also help plan the Earth Day celebration on April 20 at Festival Park; the event will feature an electric car show, vendors, food, beverages and environmental education. The Hope Mills Area Chamber of Commerce is planning events, including a ribbon cutting for Sheetz, and are working with the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County to get a grant for an “Art Splash” event on June 1.
  • Bryan Marley: The Historic Preservation Committee is planning its annual Charter Day event on March 9. 
  • Elyse Craver: While Commissioner Craver did not attend the meeting due to miscommunication, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee discussed updates to Heritage Park and the Hope Mills Rockfish baseball team, the Juneteenth Kickoff celebration at Dirtbag Ales on June 15, and the upcoming Cotton Tail Trail event on March 23. The town and the baseball team owners are currently discussing allowing alcohol to be sold at concession stands.
  • Jerry Legge: Commissioner Leggee did not attend or give an update on the Appearance Committee because he said he was not aware he was on the committee.
  • Mayor Pro Tem Kenjuana McCray: The Cultural Arts Committee is preparing to host three events in June: the Art Splash on June 1; a gun violence awareness event on June 7; and the annual Juneteenth celebration on June 15.
  • Mayor Jessie Bellflowers: During last week’s Cumberland County Mayors Coalition in Spring Lake, Garrison Commander John Wilcox discussed the new site proposal for E.E. Smith High School on the old Striker Golf Course. DistiNCtly Fayetteville President and CEO Devon Heath also gave an update regarding rebranding for the municipalities and the county, noting that businesses are looking to relocate to North Carolina. Bellflowers also proposed to Cumberland County Commissioner Glenn Adams a regional bus transportation program. He said that discussions look promising and will continue this month.

Town manager report

  • What happened: McLaughlin updated the board about several construction projects and community events happening in Hope Mills.
  • The Hope Mills Police Department will be holding its Coffee with a Cop event at the Hope Mills Starbucks on Feb. 13, and the first February Walk With A Cop will be on Feb. 20.
  • The John W. Hodges Public Safety Center will have its final walkthrough with C.E. Gleason Constructors Inc. on Feb. 8.
  • An upcoming NCDOT project expected to affect Hope Mills residents is the replacement of the sidewalk along North Main Street. This project will start on March 15. 
  • The Sheetz Gas Station will be opening on Feb. 15.

Other business

The board unanimously approved law firm Parker Poe's statement of work on behalf of the North Carolina League of Municipalities. Parker Poe will provide legal services and administer funds for the American Rescue Plan and State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds projects for Hope Mills.

The board made a proclamation in recognition of Black History Month. In addition to the proclamation, the board played a video about Samuel Jasper Hodges — one of the first major Black landowners in Cumberland County. The descendants of Samuel and Fannie B. Hodges have positively impacted the history of the Hope Mills community, according to the town of Hope Mills. 

The Hope Mills Police Department also received $1,025 in its budget for special police supplies using Federal Asset Forfeiture funds. These forfeited funds are made through drug seizures and collecting “drug money,” according to Police Chief Stephen Dollinger. The money will be used to create commemorative coins to give out to citizens at community events.

The board will also hold a public hearing for a petition request regarding 7.95 acres at 6905 Camden Road. The public hearing will be set on March 4 during the regular Board of Commissioners meeting.

The board will next meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19, in the Bill Luther Board Room at Town Hall.

Contact Hannah Lee at hannahleenews@gmail.com.

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chancer mclaughlin, town manager, reid's journey inclusive play complex