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Posted on: March 13, 2023

The City of Madison Council-Manager Special Election Topic Highlights

The City of Madison, with order of the Probate Court, has set the date for voters to decide the future of Madison's municipal form of government. The special election will be held on May 9th, with voters utilizing their regular local election polling places open from 7am to 7pm. 

The City has detailed Frequently Asked Questions as well as an informational graphic for residents to reference in making an informed vote on the topic. The public information breaks down each form of government and the roles of Mayor and City Manager in each function. 

Council Manager Graphic


1. Why did the City of Madison start researching the Council-Manager form of government?

The City of Madison currently functions with a Mayor-Council form of government. After a recent petition from the community, the City of Madison was legally required to hold the special election on changing the form of government. Research into the Council-Manager form of government originated from community members who formed committees to analyze the topic, considering Madison’s recent growth. The committee solicited enough signatures for the measure to be presented to the Probate Judge. In accordance with the Council Manager Act of 1982, once the required 10% of voters from the last general election signed the petition, the Judge of Probate notified the Mayor that Madison was legally bound to hold a special election to vote on the measure. 

2. Does City Council get to make the decision on changing Madison’s form of government?

No. Based on the state government precedent established in the Council Manager Act of 1982, the citizens of Madison will vote in a special election whether to change the form of government or to have it remain the same. 

3. When will the special election be held?

The special election will be held on May 9th using regular Madison city polling places, from 7 am to 7 pm.

4. What does a “Yes" vote mean?

Voting “Yes” means you are in favor of transitioning to a Council-Manager form of government. If passed by the people, Madison would transition to the new form of government when the next administration comes to office in November of 2025. 

5. What does a “No” vote mean?

Voting “No” means you are not in favor of transitioning to a Council-Manager form of government. If the measure does not pass, Madison would remain in a Mayor-Council form of government.

6. What is the difference between a Council-Manager versus a Mayor-Council form of government?

In the Mayor-Council form of government currently utilized in Madison, there are 7 council members, one per district, with a non-voting mayor. This means the mayor does not vote on matters presented to the Council and is responsible for managing all daily operations and formulating the city budget for Council to approve. The City Council sets policy and makes the final decisions with information provided by Mayor and employees. Mayor appoints the city administrator, and together they manage city projects.

In a Council-Manager form, Madison would transition from 7 voting Council districts to 6 districts with a voting Mayor. The City Manager would be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the city; appoint and remove department heads; present a budget to the council. Mayor sits as the “voice” and "face" of the community.

7. How would this affect the mayor’s role?

Currently in the established Mayor-Council form, Mayor serves as the primary lead of all City operations that reports to Council to make final decisions. Mayor does not vote on Council related matters. Mayor serves as a “CEO" of Madison and is responsible to run the day-to-day operations of the city. Mayor formulates a budget, recommends policy changes to Council, appoints and removes department heads, serves as the “face of the city” at community events, and focuses on relationship building at local, state, and federal levels.

In a Council-Manager form, the Mayor serves as the President of the City Council, has a vote, and sets the Council agenda. In this role, the Mayor presides over all meetings of the City Council. In the council-manager form of government, the Mayor and each elected Council member have an equal voice on setting policy. They also have an equal voice on hiring and retaining a city manager in order to make certain that the programs and services approved by the elected officials are delivered effectively, efficiently, and equitably by professional staff. The Mayor is a key leader in economic development and serves as the “public face” of the City. Additionally, the Mayor is the city leader of inter-governmental and regional relations. In this role, the Mayor will engage with other elected officials pursuing the interests of the city whether at the national, state or local level of government.

8. Will we still be able to vote for the mayor and will this change the length of his terms?

There will be an elected mayor in either form of government. The mayor’s responsibilities will be dictated by the type of government. If passed, the mayor’s term would still serve for 4 years at a time. The mayor would still be put in place by a vote of the people. 

9. How would this effect the council’s role?

Council will still have equal voice in setting policy for the City of Madison. It would require redistricting the City into 6 districts versus the currently established 7. City Council will still serve their 4 year terms. Council’s role remains the governing body of the city in either form of government, however, in a council-manager role, the Mayor is the city council president.   

10. Would this vote change anything externally? i.e., taxes, utility costs.

No. The vote in favor or not in favor has no effect on taxes or other City operations. Utility companies are autonomous from the City and set their own rates for their customers. 

11. How would this change effect other functions of the city government/departments?

City departments and employees would report directly to the City Manager for business matters. The City Manager would also oversee hiring and firing employees, while also carrying City projects to fruition throughout administration changes. 

12.  How is a City Manager held accountable for the performance of their position?

The City Council shall appoint the city manager for an indefinite term, but the council may remove the manager “at any time” by a majority vote of the entire Council. The Council-Manager Act also allows a City to require a Manager be bonded for claims of errors and omissions.   

13. What qualifications are required of a City Manager? 

The Council-Manager Act requires that a City Manager may be selected solely on the basis of his executive and administrative qualifications with special reference to his actual experience in, or his knowledge of, accepted practice in respect to the duties of his office. The Act also requires that the City Manager shall reside within the municipality after appointed.  

The City can require additional qualifications not expressly stated in the Council-Manager Act including requiring master’s degrees in relevant studies, significant experience in the administration of a city and/or other qualification desired by the City.  

14.  If a majority of voters decide to transition to the Council-Manager form of government, when will the new form of government be implemented? 

The new form of government cannot be implemented until after the next election of Mayor and City Council. Once the new administration is seated in November of 2025, Mayor and Council would then lead the hiring process for the City Manager position.

15.  What would be the salaries of Mayor and the City Manager?  

For both forms of government, salaries have not yet been defined.

16. Would a City Manager be an employee or an independent contractor to the City?

Alabama Code Section 11-43A-18 provides that a Manager “shall be an officer of the city” therefore, a City Manager would qualify for all benefits available to an employee of the City of Madison. 

17. Would a City Manager serve at the discretion of the Council? 

Alabama Code Section 11-43-18 provides “[t]he council shall appoint the city manager for an indefinite term, but the council may remove the manager at any time by a majority vote.” 

18. Would a City Manager have the authority to terminate officers such as the City Clerk, City Attorney or Police Chief?

Alabama Code Section 11-43A-28(2) provides that a City Manager would have authority to appoint and remove “all officers and employees of the municipality” except for members of various appointed board members (including library board, zoning board or municipal utility board).   Although the City Council would continue to appoint the City Clerk-Treasurer pursuant to Alabama Code Section 11-43A-28, a City Manager would have the authority to remove the City Clerk, City Attorney and/or the Fire & Police Chief.

19. If the Council-Manager ballot measure passes, which Council would have authority to appoint a City Manager: the outgoing City Council or the incoming City Council of 2025? 

The incoming City Council would only have the authority to appoint a City Manager with the authority and duties detailed under the Council-Manager Act of 1982. There is authority for a City Manager to be appointed prior to November 2025; however, any City Manager appointed prior to November 2025 would serve under a Mayor-Council form of government with less authority/duties than those enumerated under the Council-Manager Act of 1982.

20. The Council-Manager Act of 1982 references different classes of municipalities. What class municipality is the City of Madison?  

The City of Madison is a Class 8 Municipality. Alabama Code Sections 11-40-12 and 11-40-13 designates the class of a municipality as of the 1970 U.S. Census population data. Since this law has not been amended to change class designations pursuant to later census data, the City of Madison remains a Class 8 municipality.  

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