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Spring Lake to swear in interim manager


SPRING LAKE — The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen is expected to swear in Fire Chief Jason Williams as interim town manager Monday night as it continues to search for a permanent town manager.

 “It looks like I will be in this position for a little longer than when I was first appointed as the acting town manager,” Williams said.

 Williams was appointed interim town manager on Oct. 24 after state Treasurer Dale Folwell said he would not approve funding to hire Justine Jones as Spring Lake town manager.

 After a two-month search, the board voted 3-2 on Oct. 10 to appoint Jones as permanent town manager on conditional approval of the contract by the Local Government Commission, the Board of Aldermen and the town attorney, and acceptance of the contract terms by Jones.

 Folwell issued a news release on Oct. 13 saying he would not approve the funding for Jones, who had recently been fired after 90 days from her first job as town manager in Kenly. She was let go after the entire full-time Police Department, including the police chief and two other employees, quit making headline news. They said she created a hostile work environment.

 Folwell cited past employment history, concern for potential legal and financial liabilities and the potential adverse impact on town morale as his reasons for not supporting the hire.

 Folwell said in an interview earlier this month that the ability to budget and manage the finances of a large organization should be at the forefront of the board’s decision-making when selecting a town manager.

Folwell also serves as chairman of the Local Government Commission which took over Spring Lake’s finances in October 2021 amid concerns of potential budget deficits, longstanding fiscal disarray and an investigation of missing money. 

According to Jones’ resume, she has one year of budget experience and 90 days of town management experience. Prior to her brief employment in Kenly, Jones sued Richland County, South Carolina, alleging gender and racial discrimination after she was fired. In between, she spent five years operating her own consultant company.

Mayor Kia Anthony and town attorney Michael Porter said Kenly hired a third-party private investigator who showed that the claims of a hostile work environment were unfounded.

Anthony announced at the Oct. 24 meeting after Williams was appointed as interim town manager that the town would be sending a contract to the Local Government Commission for Jones to be the next manager despite the opposition from Folwell.

Williams has served as the acting town manager for the last three weeks. He said he is hoping to make some good changes in Spring Lake. He has taken a proactive approach to running the town, working with all departments to get equipment working again to clean streets and improve the appearance of the town.

“We’ve gotten the street sweeper back and running and we are working on getting things moving forward,’’ Williams said. “We got the claw machine on the truck adjusted and fixed so employees have returned to picking up bulk trash items.”

Williams hopes that residents can see that employees are trying to get the town cleaned up. 

“If we can get the streets cleaned up and the trash picked up, then hopefully the people in Spring Lake can take pride in the town,’’ he said. “We just put up the flags on Main Street. We are just going to keep working at it.”

Williams added that the town Christmas tree lighting has been scheduled for Dec. 1 with town departments once again coming out to man stations for children.

“Santa will be there and we are going to do things a little bigger this year,” Williams said. “It’s about community and what I want the most is positive things coming from this town.”

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In other business, the board is expected to hear a rezoning case to build new townhomes off  Chapel Hill Road. The board is also expected to go into closed session citing N.C. General Statutes for privilege-confidential-approval closed session minutes, attorney-client privilege and personnel.

 The board meets at 6 p.m. in the Grady Howard conference room of Spring Lake Town Hall.  

Jami McLaughlin covers Spring Lake for CityView. She can be reached at jmclaughlin@cityviewnc.com.

Spring Lake, Board of Aldermen, interim town manager