Spring Lake town officials voted Monday at its Board of Alderman meeting to hire Justine Jones as their new town manager. Jones' name is probably familiar to many in the area and beyond.
ABC11 reached out to Jones about the news of her new job. Jones declined our request for an interview while details of the contract are still being worked out, she said in an email. Town leaders named October 24 as Jones' starting date. One Alderman did express concern and opposition to hiring Jones.
Alderman Raul Palacios sent this statement to ABC11:
"My opinion is that the qualities and experience that I feel are necessary for the town at this time, are beyond her experience and qualifications. There was another candidate who had the experience, energy and network to bring the much needed changes to our town, but this board did not see those same qualities and chose to pursue Ms. Jones instead...
"...Because of the controversy that this hire brings, I expect Ms. Jones will have something to prove to restore her reputation. And if that is the factor that motivates her, it can, in time, be good for Spring Lake.
And unless there is gross misconduct, I will never vote to remove her."
The decision to hire Jones is being met with mixed reaction in the town.
Rodney Tapp isn't completely onboard the welcome wagon just yet.
"It's kind of strange that they're--It's almost like they're pushing the problem from one town to another."
While Johnny Brooks said he's hoping for the best.
"I just feel like it would be a good opportunity for her to meet new people and just do her job, and I just hope for the best."
Jones was the former manager of Kenly whose contract was terminated after less than three months on the job. This came after all of Kenly's police officers resigned when the former police chief Josh Gibson accused Jones of creating a toxic work environment. Two other town officials also quit.
Kenly town leaders called for an independent investigation into the claims and it was found there was nothing to support the accusations. Kenly's town board voted 3-2 on August 30 to terminate her contract.
"The findings didn't really justify a toxic environment," Kenly Mayor Tooie Hales said in August. "And so again, our decision to terminate the contract is not solely based on the investigation, but there are a lot of other factors, and we had to look for the best way to move forward for the town."
When Jones was hired a news release from Kenly town leaders stated that Jones beat out 29 other candidates for the job and was the council's unanimous choice.
Less than two months after her contract was terminated in Kenly, Jones is now likely the new town leader in Spring Lake, NC.
According to 2020 Census, a little over 12,000 people live in the town.
It's located in Cumberland County
Median household income: $39,898
Demographics: 37% White | 34% Black | White (Hispanic) 7.53% | Two+ Non-Hispanic 6.57% | Other Hispanic 3.85%
In 2020, the median property value was $93,800, and the homeownership rate was 20.9%.