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Letter to the Editor: Madison does not need a city manager, vote no

Dear Editor,
I moved to Madison 10 years ago after living out of state for nearly 14 years. For me, Madison was a convenient spot nestled halfway between Huntsville and Decatur, where I work. I loved the slightly rural feel of the community with small hobby farms scattered around the city and it reminded me of Hoover, AL where I grew up.

I quickly fell in love with the Tennessee valley and was glad to live north of the chaotic traffic that plagues the Birmingham metro area. Since moving here, Madison has experienced a good deal of growth, which is similar to what Hoover experienced over the past 30 years.

Madison is projected to grow further, and some are suggesting we need a city manager to help manage this growth. My question is why? Why do we need to completely transform our local government because our city is growing? Hoover, AL more than doubled in size from a population of 41,000 in 1990 to over 92,000 in 2020, all without a city manager.

Proponents of city manager also suggest this change is needed to help our schools. I ask again, why? Madison already has a plan for building additional schools based on expected future population growth. In fact, since I’ve lived here, a new high school and a new elementary school have been built, and a new middle school will open next year. Last month, the Madison City School board announced another new elementary school will be built in Limestone County next year. Madison is already building new schools without a city manager.

How much will the city manager cost taxpayers? We don’t know, the city council can’t tell us anything until after voters approve the change. We should look at a city like Dothan, AL with a similar population (71,000) to Madison to get an idea.

Dothan is more comparable to Madison in terms of population than two cities used as examples in the Madison government transition public meetings, Mountain Brook (22,000) and Vestavia (39,000). So why wasn’t Dothan used as an example or investigated by Madison’s governance transition committee?

Most likely because it is fraught with controversy. In April 2019, Dothan hired its current city manager at a base salary of $190,000 plus a $700 per month auto allowance. A similar salary has been discussed as consideration for a city manager in Madison. So, what’s the catch? Within in a year of his hiring, Dothan’s city manager convinced the board of commissioners (city council) to hire an assistant city manager at a salary of $154,000 plus a $500 car allowance. The idea of an assistant city manager and the additional salary wasn’t mentioned at all by the transition committee or those who support this change in Madison. Other costs like moving expenses, health insurance, and other benefits also have to be considered.

Madison doesn’t need a city manager. I suggest voters mark your calendar now for May 9 and vote no.

Kathy Patrick
Don’t Mess With Madison,
assistant treasurer
Resident of Madison

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