FAIRHOPE, Ala. (WALA) - On November 6th Fairhope voters will decide whether to shake things up -- on the ballot a referendum to move from a mayor-council form of government to a Council-Manager form.
A town hall Wednesday night hoped to clear up some unanswered questions. Questions submitted by the public were narrowed down to 13 questions for a panel of four to discuss based on their experience with both forms of government.
The panel included:
Mayor Alberto "Butch" Zaragoza, former Mayor of Vestavia Hills -- in office when the city changed to a Council-Manager for of government.
Mike West, Dothan City Manger
Jeff Downes, Deputy Mayor for City of Montgomery for 26 years, current Vestavia Hills City Manager since 2013
Sam Gaston, City Manager Mountain Brook since June 1993.
The town hall was moderated by FOX 10's Lenise Ligon.
Each of the panalists giving their perspective on having a city manager handle a city's daily operations.
"It allows the city, the elected body to focus on that vision to focus on policy and also to focus on constituent service...A nd somebody else will be making sure your garbage gets picked up and when you dial 911 -- somebody shows up," said West.
"One of the benefits of a Council-Manager form of governemnt... if you have a city manager that is not being responsive to you are the citizens... Or to the your governing body you can make a change that next day. If you got a mayor who is not responsive... There's not a lot you can do until next election," said Gaston.
There was a good turnout for a Wednesday night -- Fairhope residents in attendance listening intently as the city manager option is on the upcoming ballot.
"Sometimes we politicians can get leaning one way or the other -- the city manger concept keeps it straight and narrow -- and keeps it to where we are working together," said Zaragoza.
"Politics play our more in the role in some forms than others. I will say is as I moved to the manager-council form of government -- there's less of the politics," said Downes.
If passed, there would be three 'super' districts, each electing someone to the city council. There would also be a councilperson selected at-large and the mayor would also vote on the council. The city manager would handle the day to day operations. The change in government wouldn't take place until 2020.
The forum also touching city manager contracts and salaries. This would all be new territory for Fairhope and drew mixed reaction.
"I feel like it was a really educational time for our city -- a lot of people didn know the differences between a city manager and the city mayor form and how they interact with the council," said Erin Casolaro, Fairhope Junior City Council.
"It was all one-sided to me... I didn't have enough of mayor being in charge -- rather than the management, manager side," said one woman.
"A concern of really find the qualified person -- is the salaries - it's sort of a shocker there how much these folks make... Not that they're not worth it. It was just interesting and I still haven't made up my mind," said one man.
If you still have unanswered questions you can submit them to VOTE@fairhopeal.gov.