Recognizing town manager

Published 7:00 am Sunday, September 1, 2019


Recently, I was saddened to hear of the resignation of Town Manager Gerry Spates. Mr. Spates had served the citizens of Farmville faithfully for 41 years. The Town of Farmville is recognized as being sound fiscally and has enjoyed a long run of prosperous economic growth and development over the years.

I first worked with Gerry when I was elected to the Farmville Town Council in 1984. Gerry was the town manager and had served in that position since 1978. Gerry was very helpful to me as I transitioned into my role as a member of the council. Over the course of my tenure, I would often request fiscal documents from his office. Gerry would always send these documents over to my office expeditiously. Many times these documents arrived via Town of Farmville police officers. I was never denied any request for information from his office. I have often encountered resistance and opposition from other officials and their staffs when making similar requests. Gerry’s office never once told me, “It’s filed upstairs – you can go look it up yourself!” as I have been told many times by others. Always professional, Gerry was an affable and easily approachable for conversation. I recall a time while serving on Town Council that I was conducting some research on what small towns and cities were paying their public officials. Through my research I uncovered a startling fact – the Town of Farmville with a little over 6, 000 residents was paying Gerry, as town manager, a higher salary than the city of Fredericksburg with 53, 000 residents. Although I openly publicized and later criticized the discrepancy (which was a matter of public record for anyone to see) in salary that he was paid, Gerry took it all in stride. He never once said anything derogative or was retaliatory toward me in any way. As a public official, he still maintained a positive and cooperative office and was considered by many to be the consummate professional.

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As a man who performed his job well and was supported by the public he served, it is troubling to see his tenue come to such an abrupt end. It seems to me that his termination was forced and he was shown the door by the mayor or some other influential council member. It is as if he was given an ultimatum to leave or be fired. Truthfully, I am not privy to the facts surrounding him stepping down. However, to the outside observer it seems strange that a person with so much comprehensive knowledge and insight about the Town of Farmville is quitting a position in which no replacement for such a sensitive position is readily available.

Those of us in town who have been involved with politics and other organizations with a hierarchy know the vital cog in the wheel that Gerry occupied. From my time on council and other later interactions with him, I always referred to Gerry as, “The Great Oz.” From this classic tale, I drew comparisons to Gerry as the man running the show from behind the curtains — pulling all the right levers and pressing all the right buttons. Gerry knew all the interworking’s of the town and knew who to talk to and whom he needed on board to get things done in Farmville. Every town needs someone like Gerry Spates. He served the town well in his former position. I hope Farmville is not putting out to pasture the horse that was leading the race.

Carl U. Eggleston

Former member of the Farmville Town Council