Councilman Kenton Spencer says he will resign from the Laurinburg City Council to pursue other interests.
Spencer made the announcement near the end of Tuesday’s city council meeting, apparently taking his fellow board members by surprise.
Effective June 30, Spencer’s resignation leaves the council with a vacancy for the second time in less than a year. Councilman Herbert Rainer resigned from the city council last August and was eventually replaced by JD Willis.
Spencer said that he took pleasure in knowing that the occasionally testy process that led to Willis’ appointment would not be repeated to fill his seat, thanks to the succession policy recently adopted by the council.
“I’m not into king making,” Spencer said. “I believe in an open process. That’s why I (resigned) the way I did and not sit there and game the process.”
Under the new policy, nominees can come from council members or from the public, Spencer said.
Spencer added that he would not nominate someone as his choice of successor, as has been the tradition.
“I believe it’s up to the citizens. That’s why we set up a process whereby people can put forth (nominees).”
As the city council’s only at-large member, Spencer said that he took seriously the decision to resign.
“I have other pursuits, specifically academically as well as with my family and business-wise. I have some graduate work to do. That’s what for me is going to take a huge amount of time.”
That demand on his time would have left him spread too thin to properly represent the city, Spencer said.
“(Resigning) is flatly the right thing to do. It’s difficult, but you have to release your ego. Ego and fear are the biggest inhibitors of progress, and I’m not here to stand in the way of progress.”
Changes in the city’s leadership personnel have come often over the past year, starting with Rainer’s resignation in August, followed by the resignation of City Manager Ed Burchins for personal reasons in December.
That announcement was soon followed by the retirement of Police/Fire Chief John Evans in January and the hiring of Human Resources Director Amy Martin earlier this year.
Since that time former fire inspector Randy Gibson was named fire chief, while more recently Charles Nichols was named city manager and Darwin Williams was announced as police chief.
“When (Spencer) called and told me this I said I’m glad I’m sitting down,” said Mayor Tommy Parker following Spencer’s announcement. “I was in my car, and about ran off the road. I was shocked.”
Parker said that he encouraged Spencer to reconsider, and that he only learned of his final decision when it was announced during Tuesday night’s meeting.
In the event of his resignation, Parker had an honorary plaque prepared for Spencer, which he presented at the end of the meeting.
“He was a great council member and was welcomed by all to continue serving,” Parker said. “I think he was impartial, made difficult decisions, and would even vote by himself if he felt like it was right.”
Spencer’s term is due to expire in November of this year. The filing period for those seeking to fill his seat begins on July 5.
Asked about his legacy, Spencer said that he was most proud of his accomplishments in working with the city’s youth council, developing a farmers market, creating a prescription drug discount program and increasing transparency in government.
Pressed to do so, Spencer also made note of the city’s economic achievements during his tenure.
“Also, going from eight percent (in unallocated fund balance) and getting letters from the Local Government Commission to 43 percent, as well as getting FCC on board, working with the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport and with the young entrepreneurs program … I’m proud of those things.”
“My voting record is also something I’m pleased with. I voted against excessive public housing, excessive low or no-tax projects – basically that kind of fiscally conservative approach.”
Championed by Spencer, the pay-for-performance system eventually approved for city staff was another success that he mentioned concluding his final regular meeting as a city councilman.
In his final address to the council, Spencer offered some words of encouragement.
“The work is far from over … (but) we must not be afraid to reach beyond our grasp … and to reach beyond the bricks and mortar of this city.”
According to Spencer, while he is done being a city councilman for now, he may yet return to politics.
“But only if the people want for me to.”