“A professional manager is very appealing,” Mayor Bill Hereford said.
Hereford told the council there are two ways it can approach the city manager form of government.
He said it could just vote to hire a city manager to run the daily operations of the city, or let residents vote on the matter in a special election.
“That would be the way I would prefer doing it,” Hereford said, adding that it would bring more stability to the position because the council could not simply dissolve the position with a vote.
He said it would take 800 signatures to get the matter before the voters.
Hereford said if the public votes on whether a city manager will take the reins of the city, the number of council districts would change from five to three, with another council member and the mayor elected by an at-large vote.
“If I have a problem with it, it’s that,” Hereford said. “It would be a complete change in our form of government.”
He said the second option for the council is to establish a city manager position, set a salary and hire a professional to run the city.
“The more I look at our situation and our neighbors to the east (Talladega), I tend to support the council hiring the city manager,” said Councilman Donnie Todd.
He said the overall business of the city has grown to the point where, “in my opinion,” it’s time to hire a professional to run the city.
“This is about business, not about politics,” Todd said. “You would shift the mayor’s position back to part time.”
He said the city manager is not a king and would have to answer to the mayor and council.
Councilman Greg Gossett said he has reservations about holding a referendum on the matter, when it means reducing the number of council districts.
“The city is not going to benefit going with fewer districts and council members having to represent more people,” Gossett said. “The guy at-large — boy he’s got a job. … I don’t have a problem with hiring a city manager and staying with five (districts).”
Councilwoman Dot Wood said she agreed with Gossett.
“I don’t want to change the (number of) districts,” she said. “We could hire a manager and cut the mayor’s pay.”
The council set two public hearings to accept comments from the public about the possibility of changing the city’s form of government or hiring a city manager to run the day-to-day operations.
Hereford told the council at Monday night’s council meeting that he hopes to have a couple of experienced city managers to talk about the good and not-so-good of the city manager form of government.
“I think it’s something that needs to be looked at,” said Councilman James McGowan. “I want to hear the pros and cons.”
The public hearings are scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 27, and 6 p.m. Thursday, July 28. The hearings will provide an opportunity for public comment. Residents are invited and encouraged to attend the meetings.