Spring Lake, North Carolina, is a small, suburban town in the Fayetteville metro area with a population of approximately 12,000. The municipality made big history in 2021 when Kia Anthony was elected the town’s first Black lesbian mayor. Now, 20 months later, she is running uncontested for the same seat.

“It has been an incredible journey serving as your mayor, and I am deeply committed to continuing our progress and making Spring Lake an even better place to live, work and thrive,” Anthony wrote in a Facebook post.

Anthony was sworn in as mayor during a tumultuous time for the town of Spring Lake. Over 20 years of mismanagement and government corruption led to the town’s finances being in complete disarray, as well as a bill for taxpayers estimated to be in the millions.

According to a recent article from the Fayetteville Observer, the state auditor went through the books and reported in 2022 that Spring Lake didn’t keep an accurate record of its finances in years preceding Anthony’s election.

“Assets like cars and trucks were unaccounted for,” the article states. “The town was outspending its budgets and running out of cash to pay its bills and expenses … the town finance officer had embezzled more than $500,000.”

In fact, Spring Lake’s finances were in such a poor state the North Carolina Local Government Commission — a state board overseeing the operations of cities and towns — took control of the town’s financial department. Anthony spoke to the Fayetteville Observer in an interview about the struggles she first faced in office, particularly in regard to the town’s financial state. 

“It began with our interim town manager, Samantha Wullenwaber,” Anthony tells. “She was the one who found the folder that contained the checks — typed checks that (former Finance Director) Gay Tucker was using to steal money. So [Wullanwaber] was definitely one of the main whistle blowers for this.”

The mayor went on to explain after this discovery, the town adopted a new way of calculating and creating budgets.

“We all sat down and we went through every single line item (of the town budget) for every department, scrutinized it to make sure it was exactly what we needed. And we adjusted accordingly,” Anthony says. “In the end, we saved so much money.”

Another issue Anthony had to address during her first term in office was related to the work culture at town hall.

“It was a pretty toxic culture, for lack of a better term,” she offers. “The employees were really afraid for their jobs.”

One of the main problems stemmed from the budget — the town would repeatedly spend more funds than what was available.

“I liken it to going to Walmart with a shopping list, and then just putting anything in your buggy that … suited your fancy,” Anthony elaborates. “It was more of a copy-and-paste budget. It wasn’t what we were actually using.”

Under Anthony and leadership from the town’s Board of Aldermen, Spring Lake has managed to get their finances in order. As a matter of fact, the town could be given back control of its finances as early as next year. Anthony said she hopes to continue that progress in a second term while continuing to build on the community she holds dearly to her heart.

“Your unwavering support has been the driving force behind our accomplishments, and I am eager to continue working to build a Spring Lake we are all proud of,” Anthony wrote in another Facebook post. “Together, we’ll continue writing a success story that reflects our shared values and aspirations.”

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