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Leadership questions: Council, mayor still at odds over future of city

By By Mitch Freeman Madison County Record
Madison Mayor Jan Wells' latest plan for reorganizing governmental operations now includes separation of the city's planning functions from its building inspection and code enforcement offices.
Wells is proposing removing the building inspection and code enforcement functions of the planning department. Those two areas would be combined to create a new department.
Existing planning director Bob Atallo would head up the reorganized planning department and Susan Klopfenstein, who now is the city's building projects manager, would act as the new building department head.
"I need for Mr. Atallo to focus on city planning," Wells said.
The division would allow the city to move forward on land use and annexation and zoning projects, with the goal of preventing loss of areas to Huntsville.
Chief of staff eliminated The mayor's new reorganization plan also eliminates the chief of staff position and division heads that were part of her previous presentation.
That change did not sit well with the council.
"All this does is muddy the water," Councilman Ray Stubblefield said.
Wells said she revised the plan because she did not see the need to spend additional money for mid-level division head jobs.
In place of a chief of staff, Well said she would like to create a strategic steering committee. The committee, made up of the mayor and key city departmental personnel, would meet once a week.
The committee would be armed with a new job performance measuring system being implemented across city departments. The evaluation system will identify areas where personnel efficiency improvements are needed.
Wells said she does not believe the addition of mid-level management or the addition of a chief of staff will solve what the council perceives to be city organizational problems.
"We now have a process in place (to identify and address personnel efficiency issues). We now have a job description for every job in this city. We have finished updating employee policies and procedures, which has not been done since 1991," Wells said.
The council disagrees Many on the council believe the city needs a professional city manager, city administrator or chief of staff to run day-to-day operations.
Based on their research, some of the council members have said that cities with a mayor/council form of government operate more efficiently with a day-to-day administrator.
"Everybody I've talked to where cities have a mayor/council form of government have a chief of staff," Councilman Bob Wagner said.
While the mayor was making her revisions, two city council members were drafting an ordinance that would establish the chief of staff position.
Councilwoman Cynthia McCollum and Councilman Marc Jacobson drafted the ordinance. The council reviewed it paragraph by paragraph during the work session and there were no serious outstanding objections from other council members.
Although the mayor requested that council hold off while she continues to implement her plan, the ordinance will likely be brought up soon for official deliberation at a council meeting.

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