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Spring Lake names new town manager after three-year search

Jonathan ‘Jon’ Rorie previously served as manager in Camden, S.C.


After three years of searching, the board on Monday unanimously hired Jonathan N. “Jon” Rorie as their next permanent town manager.

Rorie, who previously served as city manager in Camden, South Carolina, will start May 1 at an annual salary of $140,000 with benefits, according to Town Clerk Carly Autry.

Alderman Raul Palacios said he was looking forward to Rorie assuming his new role in Spring Lake. 

“This candidate we interviewed, fell in love with and hope to see a better Spring Lake because of the expertise he brings to the table,” Palacios said. “He is coming from South Carolina, but is from the Pinehurst area. The citizens here will greatly benefit from him being here.”

During Monday’s meeting, Mayor Kia Anthony also thanked interim Town Manager Jason Williams, who was appointed to his role in October 2022, for his last year and a half of service.

She credited Williams for maintaining morale among town employees and keeping up with policies and procedures. She also applauded him for getting his town manager certification from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) while serving as both interim town manager and fire chief. Williams declined an offer to serve in a more permanent role.

Anthony also thanked other interim town managers for their previous service, including Samantha Wullenwaber and Joe Durham, for their roles leading up to Rorie’s hiring.

Specifically, Anthony credited Wullenwaber for helping work with the state auditor during the office’s investigation. She also highlighted Durham’s previous 30 years of municipal expertise and his service in stepping in as interim town manager in March 2022 when the town was having difficulty attracting someone to fill the role.

Rorie will be the first permanent town manager in the position since Adam Lindsay, who served for four months before resigning in March 2021 to become the assistant city manager for Fayetteville. 

In the last 17 years, Spring Lake has had more than a dozen town managers, including interim managers. 

In October 2022, the board voted 3-2 to hire Justine Jones, with the conditional approval of the contract by the N.C. Local Government Commission, Spring Lake aldermen and the town attorney, and acceptance of the contract terms by Jones. 

Jones, who had been fired as the town manager in the town of Kenly after the entire full-time police force resigned over allegations of a hostile work environment, did not receive the approval of the Local Government Commission. 

Anthony said Monday that the N.C. Local Government Commission had approved Rorie and that his contract had been vetted, preauthorized and approved by the LGC.

The board’s search for the next town manager was previously cited as a priority goal set forth by the Local Government Commission. 

Police chief resigns

At the end of the public comment period where three citizens questioned the firing of the former Police Chief Dysoaneik Spellman, Wiliams read a resignation letter dated March 6 from Spellman.

The letter stated that Spellman was formally announcing his resignation from the role as chief of police for the Town of Spring Lake and thanked Williams and the board for allowing him to serve.

Williams stated that though he was initially fired — confirmed by CityView on Wednesday — Spellman turned in a letter of resignation, which the town accepted.

The town also sent a press release on March 7 announcing that former Chief Spellman was “relieved of duties” and “effective immediately, the position of Police Chief will be vacated by Dysoaneik Spellman. This decision aligns with internal protocols and respects the confidentiality required in personnel matters.”

The release also stated “the department's operations will be overseen by experienced senior officers, ensuring that the community's safety and security needs are met without interruption” while they begin the search for a new police chief. 

Pay increase approved for police and fire departments

Williams presented a request for a 20% pay increase for members of the town police department and eliminating “sleep time” for the fire department, which would increase the fire department’s net salary as a result. 

Williams said he and other command staff, including Spellman, had been working on a retention pay plan in order to help attract more police officers and firefighters to the town.

Anthony added the town was starting the salary increase with police and fire departments to help with retention, but would also be conducting the pay study to be able to address competitive salaries for all town employees.

“This is not ‘one and done,’” Anthony said. “This will eventually be for the entire staff.”

The board voted unanimously in favor of the fire and police department pay increases.

Priddy house recognition

Local business owner Patrick Morrison asked the board to declare 103 N. Main St. as a house of historical and cultural significance.

The property, built in the mid-1920s and known as the Priddy House, was the home of Arthur Esto Priddy and his family. 

Priddy’s granddaughter Mary Ellen Bell Wright, 70, who was present at the meeting, said it was an honor for her family home to be recognized.

“This is so special and unexpected,” Wright said. “I’ve learned a lot from his research about my family.”

The board voted unanimously to declare the property, which is the oldest house standing on Main Street, as a House of Historical-Cultural Significance. 

Morrison and his family are renovating the house to open as a cat cafe. 

Other agenda items

The board accepted 10 five-inch key line LDH hoses by the Cumberland County Fire Chiefs’ Association for the fire department.

The board also heard presentations from Fayetteville/Cumberland County Continuum of Care on Homelessness for an outline of homeless services; and the county’s Dept. of Public Health for information about programming. 

The board went into closed session, citing N.C. General Statutes on personnel and attorney-client privilege, for 30 minutes before returning to adjourn at 9 p.m.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday, March 25, in the Grady Howard conference room at the Spring Lake Town Hall. 

Jami McLaughlin can be reached at jmclaughlin@cityviewnc.com or 910-391-4870.

spring lake town manager, Jonathan ‘Jon’ Rorie, spring lake police chief, pay increases