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Spates looks back on 40 years

Farmville Town Manager Gerald Spates recently started his 40th year in the role.

Gerald Spates

“We’ve made a lot of different improvements,” Spates said regarding looking back on his tenure with the town. “There’s been improvements. But it’s been an effort, I give all the credit to council. I think council, all the council I’ve worked with since then have been very supportive of what we’ve done.”

Spates said he was born in San Francisco, California and grew up in Washington D.C.

“My parents worked for the government,” Spates said.

He was stationed at Fort Pickett when was in the service, so he ended up staying in the area when he got out of the service.

“Matter of fact I started working here in Farmville for the planning commission,” Spates said. “One of the council members from Farmville … told me that they had a position for assistant town manager and that I should apply so I applied and got the job.”

When he started South Main Street was only two lanes.

“Matter of fact Griffin Boulevard was Eli Street. Eli Street was basically a dirt road,” Spates said. “Didn’t have any sidewalks. I think that was probably one of the first bigger projects I’ve worked on.”

He said Farmville really was a small country town back then.

“We’ve gradually built up our public works department, our police department and I don’t know how many employees we had at that time but now we’ve got like 160 employees and I would imagine at that time we had about 60,” Spates said.

He mentioned when the McDonald’s opened everybody said “when you get a McDonald’s, you’re on your way.”

He also cited three or four different annexations that led to the town increasing in size.

“Each time we annexed, or did a boundary adjustment, we had to run utilities,” Spates said. “I guess one of the key things that I’m really proud of is the fact that our water and sewer system, all that, all our infrastructure I think is in good to excellent shape.”

During a recent interview, Spates said the people are great to work with.

In a Herald report from 1978, “Manager spot challenges Spates,” written when Spates took the job, Spates said, “The job is interesting. I’m looking forward to the work. People here are really fantastic…”