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Meeting will test public’s reaction to city transition plans, answer questions

MADISON – Madison could soon see a dramatic shift in the government structure for the city if local leaders have their way. Madison city officials are promoting a plan that alter city government. The plan would diminish the current role of an elected mayor in favor of an appointed city manager.

To help residents better understand what their plan will involve and why, a series of public information meetings are being scheduled. They will also allow residents to ask questions and provide feedback.

A community meeting is being planned for Wednesday, June 22, moderated by Madison City Council member Renae Bartlett. It will be held 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Madison Council Chambers at City Hall, 100 Hughes Road. The purpose of the Community meeting is to discuss transitioning to a council-city manager form of government.

The meeting will also be live-streamed on the city’s webpage at www.madisonal.gov. Those watching this way, can submit questions prior to the meeting by clicking here.

Bartlett said there will be two city managers in attendance who will describe their roles and duties. They will be available to answer questions. They are Sam Gaston, the city manager for Mountain Brook, and Jeff Downes, city manager for Vestavia Hills.

Earlier this year, Madison City Council members heard from a special appointed “Madison Governance Transition Committee” on their research and recommendation of changing the form of government for the city. The committee unanimously recommended that the city should shift to a council-manager form of government.

Currently, the city of Madison operates with a mayor-council form of government, with 7 voting district representatives and Mayoral recommendations with no vote.

The committee members were appointed by Mayor Paul Finley in August 2021 and tasked with looking into the proposed change and develop a recommendation for the city council.

If the change is approved, it would require redistricting Madison into 6 districts, with a voting mayor elected at large. The mayor would mostly represent the city in public events and in meetings with neighboring cities. Currently, the mayor is elected and oversees municipal departments and functions, with a heavy hand in deciding the overall direction for the city.

The proposed change would place a council-appointed city manager in charge of the city’s daily operations and departments. The mayor and city council would share legislative functions, with the mayor serving as the council president.

The city manager could be removed by the city council if not fulfilling duties.

In order to transition to the council-manager form of government, under the Alabama Council-Manager Act, a petition is necessary to kick off the process. If the requisite number of Madison residents sign the petition, then the question of whether to change the form of government would be submitted to voters in a special election.

The committee also recommended a staggered election for council and mayor instead of all positions being elected at the same time.

According to a press release from the city in Jan., the city stated it will “start defining the process of hiring a qualified city manager, as well as develop a plan for redistricting with a staggered term legislation. Following a request to the Alabama Legislature for approval, the staggered terms would begin in 2025 after the current administration serves out their term.”

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