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Letter to the Editor: Why I am voting yes on May 9 for a city manager

Dear Editor,
On Tuesday, May 9th Madison Registered Voters will go to the polls to determine Madison’s future government structure. Most of us believe that if change must occur, there must be a perceived need for change. Many Madison residents are most likely satisfied with their current Mayor and Council. I have been in office since 2016 where we have seen explosive growth in amenities and our quality of life. Town Madison has added many restaurants, retail and other opportunities. We have our Trash Pandas who play out of a stadium that is second to none in minor league baseball. You may have been to Toyota Field for an event other than a baseball game. It is a true multi-use venue. We have countless new restaurants (Culvers, Pita Street Food, Luigi’s, Chicken Salad Chick and Whataburger just to name a few) and Publix in Clift Farm is now within the city limits of Madison and BJ’s should be open within the next year! Our revenue increases monthly, often in double digits. Our most recent revenue statement in February 2023 is 18.87% higher than February 2022 and is up 9.09% for the year so far.

You are probably asking yourself, “Well why then should we change? Everything seems to be working just fine.” The people who are currently in office in 2023 will likely not be in office in December, 2025. Elected officials may decide to not run again or may lose their election. We have a mayor who has been fabulous to work with and we have accomplished much, but there are better financial opportunities in our area where you would not have to work 24/7/365. Who would blame a person for seeking a job that pays far more than the current $117,000 a year salary? A job where they would get weekends and holidays off and one that for sure, would be less stressful?

Since my family moved to the area 25 years ago, there have been five different mayors and since 2009 twenty different council members. As Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.” By having a City Manager, we would have a professional, educated (likely hold an MPA, Masters in Public Administration or MPP, Masters in Public Policy Degree), experienced person who has likely managed a similar size city to Madison for a number of years. This person would be well versed in budgetary skills, staffing management, CIP (Capital Improvement Projects), accounting principles, bond management, cybersecurity, debt management, first responder and safety needs and the list goes on. This would free the mayor to be the voice of the city, to respond to citizen’s concerns and to not have to micromanage the day-to-day, tedious, often time-consuming minutiae details of running the sixteen departments that we have. For example, if a bulldozer at public works stops working and the director reaches out, it’s currently the mayor that needs to find the money in the budget to get a new one. If a change of government is made, it wouldn’t have to be the mayor’s responsibility, but the city manager who would have a more focused directive. The same goes for our first responder needs. The police and fire department chiefs can work with the city manager and finance director to work out how to best move forward to satisfy their departmental needs.

Some have claimed, “The City Manager isn’t hired by the people! There’s no transparency! How will we communicate with him/her?” It’s true the City Manager isn’t elected by the people. That’s good because then he/she isn’t beholden to anyone. The City Manager works for the city and its residents. His or her email address will be on the city website just like every department head. You can go to www.madisonal.gov and click on each department and email the department head. Everyday our Parks and Rec Department Head receives emails about sports programs, greenways and the Senior Center. Likewise, you can email our Public Works Department if you have a pothole or your streetlight is out. This form of government will not weaken our form of government but will strengthen it because it takes politics out of the process. There will be a person whose daily responsibility will be the smooth running of our city’s sixteen departments and 350 employees in a smooth and efficient manner.

So, you’re probably asking yourself, “So then what’s the mayor going to do?” The mayor will then be able to set the vision for the city. He or she will be able to physically leave city hall and market our city, bringing more retail business and industry to Madison. Instead of focusing 90% of their time on operations, he or she will be able to focus 100% of their time and energy to improving our amenities and quality of life. While we have been very successful since 2016, the future is not guaranteed. To be a mayor in Alabama, you must be 18, live in the city in which you are running for 90 days and pay a $50 filing fee. Are we willing to put someone in charge who has just graduated from high school but doesn’t have any real work experience? Are we confident that just anyone can manage a $70,000,000 budget, 350 employees and a growing city? And are we positive they will be successful for both the short and long term? I don’t think anyone is positive about that. Please join me in voting yes on Tuesday, May 9 for the city manager special election where we will join other successful cities in Alabama such as Pelham, Auburn and Mountain Brook that have this form of government.

Lastly, I would encourage everyone to do their own independent research and make a well-informed decision for this vote of historical importance. See you at the polls on Tuesday, May 9th!

By Maura Wroblewski,
Madison City Council,
District 1(2003-present)

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