Governance Transition Committee recs City Manager model for Madison

MADISON – The Governance Transition Committee delivered its findings to Madison City Council at its Jan. 10 meeting.

In August 2021, Mayor Paul Finley appointed the seven-member citizen committee to research the form of city government that Madison should be using now. The City of Madison changed from a commissioner structure in 1988 to a mayor/council form of government, under which the city continues to function today.

The transition committee was unanimous in its recommendation that Madison should change to a City Council/City Manager form of government. The committee cited benefits for the change to the council/manager structure:

* Places a credentialed professional to oversee city management.

* Assigns the mayor to serve as President of Madison City Council.

* Clarifies reporting responsibilities for department heads and staff to have one point of contact.

* Removes politics (such as fraternizing and favoritism) from city government so the work of the city operates as a business.

With City Council/City Manager configuration, Madison citizens will elect the mayor at large. The mayor represents the city in public events and in meetings with neighboring cities. Promoting city activities is one task for the mayor, along with representing the city with municipal boards.

During work sessions for committee, they considered the city’s population at 56,000-plus residents, as of 2020.

In another decision, the committee recommends a staggered vote for council and mayor. However, the vote was split on this proposal but passed with a 4-to-2 vote. This schedule would start with elections in 2025.

According to the committee’s research, the City Council/City Manager organizational plan will reduce the risk of full turnover of City Council. As a result, the city could depend on continuity in the implementation of a strategic growth plan and guarantee that some council members have experience in serving in their municipal positions.

In addition, the setup allows for potential for fresh perspectives from new council members every two years. One negative scenario is the cost for multiple elections.

The Governance Transition Committee includes Beth Richardson, Cecilia Showalter, James Ross, Arthur Brackett, Taylor Edge, Mike Oliver and Roseanna Cox. City Attorney Megan Zingarelli served as staff advisor.

The committee’s report will be available online on January 11 at www.madisonal.gov.

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