Spates retires as town manager

Published 2:11 pm Thursday, August 29, 2019

A Monday evening press release from the Farmville Town Council stated that Town Manager Gerald Spates submitted his retirement letter effective immediately, Aug. 26.

Gerald Spates

The council held an emergency called closed session on Monday, and took action following the meeting on the retirement of Spates.

Town council voted unanimously to approve his retirement request.

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Spates’ contract with the town was extended for three years in April 2017. His contract would have been up for renewal in April 2020.

“It is with careful consideration that I submit my letter retiring as Town Manager of the Town of Farmville after almost 44 years, effective today, Aug. 26. Now that I am 72 years old, I need to address family issues, as well as the health issues that come with age,” Spates’ letter of retirement to the council stated.

On Tuesday, during an interview with The Farmville Herald, Spates said that he notified the council of his retirement that morning. “My family knew, of course, but I told everyone else on Monday,” said Spates. I figured if I was going to do it (retire) I would just do it now. We’ve got an assistant town manager, and he’ll be fine to take over.”

Following the council’s closed meeting, members appointed Assistant Town Manager C. Scott Davis as the interim town manager.

“Gerry has been dedicated to the prosperity and evolvement of the town. I am very thankful for the opportunity he provided me by hiring me as the assistant town manager,” said Davis. “The institutional knowledge he has after 44 years is phenomenal, and I have been lucky for him to share some of this information before his retirement. I always knew he was dedicated to a high level of customer service, and it was important for the town to be the best it could be.”

Davis went on to say that he intends to build trust and stronger relationships with employees during this time of transition. “I want to ensure the mayor, town council, and the community that the employees and our staff, will continue to make Farmville a great place to live, work and play.”

According to a release from the town council, members will discuss the process that it will utilize to select the Town of Farmville’s next town manager soon.

According to Farmville Mayor David Whitus that process could take from six to 10 months. 

“While Mr. Spates’ departure was quick, Mr. Spates words speak for themself and council respected his request,” said Mayor Whitus. “Gerry’s four-plus decades of service are unmatched. He contributed greatly to the growth and expansion of Farmville. His compassion and devotion to this community are unparalleled. He made sure the town was super clean and the ‘trains’ were all running on time. If a citizen had a need and called his office, he saw that it was taken care of immediately. As the town staff said, ‘Gerry believed in teamwork’.”

Spates came to Farmville in 1975 and first served as assistant town manager and has served as town manager for the past 41 years. He holds the honor of being the youngest town manager appointed and now the longest-serving in the Commonwealth.

Spates was born in San Francisco, California, and later relocated to Washington D.C. with his parents. He was drafted in June 1967 shortly after graduating high school.

In January 1968, Spates was selected to attend Engineer Officer Candidate School. He graduated as a 2nd lieutenant combat engineer and served in Vietnam with the Army Corps of Engineers as an engineering adviser. After his tour of duty, he returned to the states and was transferred to Fort Pickett, in Blackstone as an assistant post engineer until his discharge as a captain in 1973. He received multiple awards in recognition of his exemplary service to his country, including the Army Commendation Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Commendation Medal, the Bronze Star Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Star.

Spates began his civilian professional career as an engineering consultant at the Piedmont Planning Commission, currently known as the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC).

Over his many years serving the town, Spates has seen the town grow.

Farmville’s grown from a town with only three stoplights and single-lane Main Street to a town that’s joined Virginia’s 29 historic and distinctive Main Street communities. “Infrastructure is key,” Spates said in an interview with Farmville the Magazine in October 2018. “You have to have the infrastructure in place in order to accommodate growth.”

During Spates’ tenure, the water treatment plant was replaced, and numerous road improvement projects were completed. More recent improvements to the town include the Barbara Johns Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library and the Farmville Town Hall.

Town of Farmville Director of Public Works Robin Atkins also noted Spates leadership and love for the town. “Gerry has been a great leader and a town manager. He has brought Farmville up to what it is today,” said Atkins. Farmville is a very nice, clean and friendly town that takes pride in its appearance and providing the services to its citizens, businesses and visitors. No one loved Farmville more than Gerry Spates.”