After petitions signed by over 800 members of the Fairhope community made their way to the Probate Court earlier this month; the town has set October 2 as the date for a special election to allow voters to decide whether or not they will change the city’s form of government.
The new form of government being proposed would create a new governing body known as the “Council of the City of Fairhope,” which would have the same executive powers and duties of the council, but would make the mayor a member of the council, not an executive over it. Meaning the mayor would no longer preside over all city employees, or the council. Instead the mayor would be in charge of ceremonial events, and serve as a representative of the city.
The way the members of the council are elected would also change. “One member will be a council member elected by the voters at large. Three members will be council members elected by the voters from each of three single-member districts,” the group, Fresh Start Fairhope, stated.
However, several other details however, remain unclear. The city has yet to determine the language that will be used on the ballot, or how the new council members will be elected in the future. If the measure passes, it will not come into effect until 2020.
“What hasn’t been decided yet is if the council will determine whether they should represent individual districts or be at-large,” Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell told AL.com. Russell also told them he was concerned about “voter fatigue,” given that this will be the “sixth election in 14 months for Fairhope voters, not counting the Nov. 6 general election.”
But the members of Fresh Start Fairhope, the group responsible for gathering the signatures to issue the new proposal are not as worried. “If you talk to the 800 or so people who have supported our position, they are excited about this and cannot wait for October to come around. People are ready for change in Fairhope and are ready for something bigger,” the group’s spokesman Chuck Zunk told AL.com.