Council-Manager Special Referendum Vote on 11/6/18

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Deadline to Register for the General Election is Monday, October 22nd

Link to Register Online:

How will absentee ballots be handled? 

If you already submitted an absentee ballot it will be destroyed. The City Clerk is sending the following letter to everyone who filled out an absentee ballot with a new application by October 5, 2018.  If you are unable to vote in person on November 6, 2018, you may fill out this application for an absentee ballot:

Return the completed application to the City Clerk’s office at 161 N. Section Street.  

Who can vote for this referendum? 

Only registered voters inside the Fairhope City limits.  

View City Limit Map

Where can I see a sample ballot?

Click here to see a sample ballot.  

Where do I vote on November 6th? 

Please refer to the Alabama Secretary of State "Alabama Votes" website:

You will vote for both elections at your usual voting precinct.  

 Precinct #     Location 
 42  Fairhope Civic Center 
 43  Fairhope 3 Circle Church 
 49  Fairhope Avenue Baptist Church 
 10  St. Francis at the Point (Point Clear) 
 35  Daphne Civic Center 
 23  Belforest Community Center 
 44  Barnwell Volunteer Fire Department 


Will the two ballots be combined? 

NO. If you live within the City limits, you will be given a separate ballot for the referendum at your voting precinct.  

Why was the vote for the referendum delayed? 

We are the first city to request to move to a Council-Manager form of government under the new amended code and process. Notification of this election under Ala. Code section 11-43A-3, is different from state requirements outlined in the current election codes we followed. The court’s certification of the referendum was received on July 13. Notification was to be sent out no later than 10 days from July 13. Unknowingly, we sent notification out according to election code requirements and because of this the responsibility fell on the probate court judge to set a date for this election. The judge called for the election to be held on November 6th.  

What are we voting for on the special referendum? 

You are voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to change the current Council-Mayor form of government to Council-City Manager form of government.  

The Alabama Attorney General Attorney Opinion on the Referendum Election

Click Here to View

What does that mean? We no longer have a mayor?

It means that the mayor will become a member of council, with a vote, presiding over its meetings. The City Manager will take over the day-to-day responsibilities that the mayor used to deal with – overseeing employees, creating the annual budget – basically running the day-to-day operations of the City.

Who hires the City Manager?

  • Section 11-43A-18 of Alabama Code provides for the council, by a majority vote, to appoint the city manager, and that appointment is for an indefinite term. The Council also, by a majority vote, may dismiss the city manager.
  • Section 11-43A- 28 of Alabama Code describes how the city manager “... shall be chosen by the council 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....”
  • All other city positions are hired and managed by the City Manager.
  • Mandated qualifications and City Manager duties may be viewed here City Manager Qualifications & Duties 

What’s to stop the Council from firing the City Manager every year?

While this may be a concern for some, it would appear it’s not a wide-spread problem. Fifty-three percent (53%) of cities nationwide with at least 10,000 residents and fewer than 25,000 operate with a council-manager form of government. Leaders of growing cities across our nation say as their cities get larger, their governments need to do more, and perform at higher levels. They believe this is beyond the capabilities of most elected officials.

How did this form of government start?

Here are a few facts and history:  

This form of government has been around since the late 19th/early 20th centuries, so it is not a new concept. Council-Manager form of government is a common form of government in cities with populations between 10,000 and 500,000. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of cities as of 2011 utilized this form of government. 
As of 2017 and according to the International City/County Management Association (ICMA): “Today more than 105 million people in the U.S. live in communities that operate under the council-manager form. Forty-eight percent [48%] of the more than 7300 U.S. municipalities with populations of 2500 or more use the form, as do nearly 62 percent of municipalities with populations greater than 100,000. More than 800 counties also employ a similar system.” 
There is a growing prevalence of council-manager form of government since inception which may be indicative of a trend toward professionalization within municipal administration.

What other cities in Alabama have city managers?

Sixteen (16) cities in Alabama among them, Mountain Brook, Auburn, and Vestavia Hills.


How do cities find qualified City Managers? 

  • The qualifications and job description for this position are defined in Section 11-43A-28 of the Alabama Code City Manager Qualifications & Duties.  
  • The City Council interviews candidates who meet the qualifications as defined by the state. Interviews can be held during a public meeting.

Who supervises the City Manager?

The City Manager reports to the Council.

How can the Council-Manager form of government impact my city? 

According to the ICMA: 

  • There is a clear line of distinction between the administrative role of the manager (oversight of day-to-day operations) and the political/policy leadership role of the mayor and governing body (policy making). 
  • The City Manager focuses on service delivery to residents, policy implementation and performance management. He/she can also align a city’s services with the values, mission and policy goals as defined by the governing body (City Council) which is responding to the community. 
  • Sixty-five percent (65%) of managers surveyed by ICMA had earned a master’s in public administration, business or public policy or other advanced degree. The survey also revealed that respondents had spent an average of more than 20 years working in the local government management profession.

So, what does the Mayor do in a Council-City Manager form of government?

The Mayor presides over the Council meetings, serves as the head of the government for ceremonial purposes, and works directly with the governor in declared emergency situations. The mayor also facilitates communications between elected officials, leads meetings and speaks on behalf of the community. 

What happens to the checks and balances?

Section 11-43A-11 of Alabama Code states “... subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution of Alabama and its laws, all powers of the municipality shall be vested in the council....” State code and ordinances prescribe how the council exercises its powers.

If we vote ‘yes’ on the new form of government, when does it happen?

It will take place with the 2020 elections.

I hear if we vote ‘yes,’ we automatically go to districts. Is this true and how many?

  • The Attorney General issued an opinion (found here: Attorney General Opinion on Council Manager Form of Government) that states if the City of Fairhope votes to move to a Council-City Manager form of government, there will automatically be three (3) districts to be formed.
  • The Council would be made up of three district councilmen, 1 councilman elected at large and the mayor elected at large.

Who decides the composition of districts? 

  • Section 11-43A-9 of Alabama Code requires the governing body [council] to “... cause the municipality to be divided into three districts.” It doesn’t say the governing body specifically does it. The Council would likely hire the appropriate professional entity to make districting recommendations. 
  • A strict timeline and public noticing of the districts is required. 
  • Again Alabama code provides required procedures:  
    • “The ordinance [created by council] establishing the districts shall describe the territory composing the district by metes and counts, or census tracks, and the municipal clerk, within five days after the adoption of the ordinance, shall file with the judge of probate of the county or counties within which the municipality lies a certified copy of such ordinance accompanied, by a map or plat of the city or town showing he boundaries of all such districts.”  

How is Council-Manager different from Council-Mayor? 

Instead of dealing with the day-to-day tasks of running the city coupled with ceremonial and vision/goal setting responsibilities, a Mayor in this form of government serves on the city council and presides at its meetings, is recognized as the head of the municipal government for ceremonial purposes and by the Governor in the event of declared emergencies. The mayor and council work together to set the policies and goals for the city based on input from the citizens. The council member-at-large shall be assistant mayor and shall act as mayor during any absence or disability of the mayor.  The City Manager is the head of the administrative branch of the city government and is responsible to the council for the proper administration of all affairs of the municipality.

We will update FAQs on this subject very soon. In the meantime, send your questions to: