Residents quiz candidates at forum

The audience at the Tennessee Valley Republican Club's Candidate Forum quizzed Madison City Council candidates during a question-and-answer session. RECORD PHOTOS/GREGG L. PARKER
The audience at the Tennessee Valley Republican Club’s Candidate Forum quizzed Madison City Council candidates during a question-and-answer session. RECORD PHOTOS/GREGG L. PARKER

MADISON – Grits, yard signs and handshakes dominated the room during the political forum for candidates in the Madison City Council race.

Tennessee Valley Republican Club sponsored the July 9 session at Best Western Plus. The forum marked the first time for all candidates to assemble together.

Club president Matthew Roup welcomed the audience.

Former State Senator Tom Butler facilitated the breakfast meeting. Each candidate was allowed three minutes to speak about his or her background, career, campaign platform and city goals. After candidates spoke, a question-and-answer time followed with the audience quizzing the candidates on city issues.

Question: How do we move forward with improvement of communication with council and mayor?

“A lot of information on Facebook is just not true. Instead of doing research, people take that as gospel and make assumptions,” District 2 incumbent Candidate Steve Smith said. “You have to put personal thoughts and feelings behind.”

District 5 incumbent Candidate Tommy Overcash said, “Council has always got along wonderfully. We take one issue and move forward. Council tried every way to move forward with the executive branch, and it just hasn’t worked. So we moved on.”

Overcash implemented the council’s monthly work sessions to analyze city matters.

District 6 incumbent Candidate Gerald Clark said road improvement on Pension Row is a prime example of poor communication. The city paved Pension Row, but Madison Utilities then had to excavate the roadway for sewer work. “Thanks to me, the departments now have monthly meetings,” Clark said.

District 3 Candidate Teddy Powell said council looked at the option of city manager. This change might be an option in the future, he said. “Seven people were against one when (council) explored the city manager idea.”

District 4 Councilman Mike Powell, who is not seeking re-election, said, “I don’t like the assumption that city is not moving forward. We have done some awfully good things in the last four years. I’m proud of what we’ve done.”

“Four years ago, we were communicating with the mayor, but he said ‘too many cooks in the kitchen.’ You can’t clap with one hand,” Potter said.

Question: What is the difference in power for council and mayor?

“Mayor says he is CEO and should execute the decisions of City Council. If (the mayor) is spending dollars not in the budget, he should come to (council) and ask for money. We had to find out about the Trump rally from the school system,” Potter said.

Q: Candidates want a long-term plan to give department heads more power. How do you balance the will of people with city progress?

District 4 Candidate Greg Shaw cited Mountain Brook as an example with 12 city employees in planning “to grow the community. We’ve never had a city manager but that person is behind the scenes, regardless who is out front (as mayor),” Shaw said.

Smith, citing his experience with union/management negotiations, said the city needs to update policies and procedures for everyone to follow. “Give department heads more freedom,” Smith said. As an example, council changed the dollar amount for department heads’ purchases that don’t require approval from the finance committee.

Overcash said “city manager may be a journey — not a destination. Like with the Madison school system, we studied for eight to 10 years and passed a tax about six years into it. We may need a city administrator in City Hall and allow the current mayor to do outside (activities).”

Tennessee Valley Republicans Club will host a mayoral forum on Aug. 13 at Best Western Plus.

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