The Homewood City Council is considering calling for a referendum so residents can consider remodeling their city government. 

Some council members have suggested the city government should function similarly to nearby Vestavia Hills.

Subcommittees have already assessed models from other Birmingham area municipalities, such as Mountain Brook and Hoover. The council considered the referendum during its committee meetings on Monday night, but an official decision is yet to be made. 

Homewood operates under a mayor-council government, a common model for local governments across the United States. 

According to Ballotpedia, this means the city has a council and a mayor who work together to pass budgets, pass and enforce legislation and oversee city bureaucracies. Though this form of government comes in many varieties, it is one of five major types of municipal government in America.

Many of Alabama’s largest cities — Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville and Mobile — all operate under mayor-council governments. 

Though a part of the populous Birmingham-Jefferson metro area, Homewood is only the 22nd most populous city in the state. It is also one of the wealthiest cities in the state, alongside other Jefferson County municipalities like Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills. 

The Homewood City Council currently consists of 11 members. The city is divided into five wards. Each ward has two places, which elect a representative to the council. A council president is elected at large and is separate from the mayor.

Alex Wyatt currently serves as the Homewood City Council president, whereas former city councilman Patrick McClusky serves as mayor.

Vestavia Hills uses a city manager model in which the mayor serves on the city council as president. Vestavia also has a city manager who reports to the mayor and the council. 

The Vestavia Hills city manager is not elected but rather appointed by the city council to serve as the chief executive officer of the municipal government.

“The opportunity to bring forth a city manager and go through a referendum in which the city has buy-in and is given the opportunity to choose a city manager, and that would provide us clear parameters and structure by which that person can be successful, that would be my recommendation that we would pursue the model that is in Vestavia,” Councilman Carlos Alemán said during the committee meetings. 

Mountain Brook operates under a council-manager government. The Mountain Brook mayor and five city council members are elected at large and appoint a city manager.

Like Homewood, Hoover maintains a mayor-council form of government but has a city administrator who assists the mayor and the city council and leads city staff. 

Alemán said he is uncomfortable with the Mountain Brook and Hoover model because it leaves too much in the gray.

“The Vestavia model provides the clearest structure and gives us the most confidence to move forward, and it gives us the tools necessary to be successful in doing so,” he explained.

Wyatt suggested a city manager would help transition between changes in elected council members.

“One of the main benefits that we find is … continuity between administrations,” he explained. “To me, the Hoover model of the city administrator doesn’t give you that because you’re still leaving the mayor in charge of the executive. And that’s fine if you have a full-time mayor and you’ve got a big city. We’ve found that the cities that use that utilized it and utilized it well, tended to be bigger cities.”

Nevertheless, Wyatt said that changing the model of government in Homewood may require redrawing some of the city council districts.

“The numbers don’t quite work out right to match up what we have to those current options,” he explained.

Wyatt said that the referendum can be held in the first quarter of 2024, allowing them to hire a city manager before the council comes up for reelection in November 2025. 

“If we really are coalescing around an option already, I think it’s good to go ahead and do that,” Wyatt suggested. “If we can do that in August, then we can move forward with, quite frankly, what I think are further discussions about redistricting and things of that nature.”

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