The Fort Payne City Council voted June 16 to suspend its rules and approve an ordinance setting qualifying fees for the mayor and city council elections. It will cost $50 for candidates to formally enter the municipal race on August 25.

This fee is the same as the last election. What’s different this time is the pay. City Clerk Andy Parker said the incoming city council members will earn $11,700, previously $9,600, while the new mayor will earn $69,290, a significant boost from the $58,000 earned by current mayor Larry Chesser.

The salaries were increased for the next group in hopes of attracting younger candidates with pay that is a little more competitive with private industry.

They had until July 2 to establish the qualification fees, but council member Wade Hill motioned to go ahead and get it out of the way. The vote was unanimous. They also approved ordinance 2020-04 authorizing the use of Election Systems Software and Hardware for the upcoming municipal election. ESS is certified with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and their systems are required to complete testing with zero errors in one million test ballots.

Candidates may begin qualifying at City Hall once a notice of election is given on July 7. They’ll have until 5 p.m. on July 21 to enter the race. July 27 is the last day for candidates who qualified to file an Appointment of Principal Campaign Committee form with Probate Judge Ronnie Osborn.

Citizens can register to vote in the municipal election until August 10. August 20 is the final day for a voter to apply for a regular absentee ballot. October 6 is the designated date for a run-off election, if needed.

As part of the process, candidates are required to file a Statement of Economic Interests disclosing their occupation or place of business, all income, stocks, fees, dividends, profits, commissions and interest, including interest on bank accounts, as well as information about holdings and indebtedness of spouses and dependents. The purpose of this is “to ensure that public officials are independent and impartial; that decisions and policies are made in the proper governmental channels; that public office is not used for private gain; and, most importantly, that there is public confidence in the integrity of government,” according to the Ethics Commission website. Contact the Alabama Ethics Commission at 334-242-2997 for questions about the Statement of Economic Interests.

For a more detailed elections calendar, please refer to the Special Report prepared by the Alabama League of Municipalities titled “Procedures for Holding Elections in Mayor-Council Municipalities” (2019 ed.) available for download at www.alalm.org.

Council members typically represent citizens to decide the city’s goals, major projects and infrastructure improvements ranging from community growth to land use to finances and strategic planning. They enact laws and policies that mayors direct department heads to carry out. Meetings are open to constituents, who are given the opportunity to weigh in, after which the council decides which ordinances end up being approved and which get defeated.

Some candidates have already announced their intentions to seek election or re-election in The Times-Journal. These announcements appear in the lower quarter of the front page to ensure similar placement for all candidates who reach out to us.

Announcements should include a head and shoulders photo of the candidate and contain a word count of no more than 500 words describing who the candidate is and the office for which he or she intends to qualify. These can be delivered in person to The Times-Journal office or emailed to emily.kirby@times-journal.com.

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