Early Voting Starts July 15, Election Day is August 4th.

What Does an Alderman Do?

What exactly is the role of an alderman in Tullahoma? Why is it different here than, say, down the road in Manchester? Why does the city administrator propose the budget and policies? Who is responsible for accountability? Let’s try to answer a few of those questions.

A Little background

The title used to describe the people elected to a municipalities governing body can vary significantly depending on state you live in or even within a state.  The chief elected official or figurehead is commonly called the mayor. Mayors are either elected directly or appointed by an elected board, depending on the city’s form of government and the authority given to the mayor. The members council, board, or committee are generally termed council member, alderman, selectman, or committee members.
The term alderman comes from the old english title of ealdorman, which means “elder man” or “older man”
In Tullahoma, we call our elected legislative body the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen is a seven-member body consisting of one democratically elected mayor and six alderpersons who serve the city at large. Our elections are held on even-numbered years on the first Thursday in August, with each seat holding a four-year term.

Early Voting Period

Friday July 15 - Saturday July 30, 2022

Election Day

Thursday August 4, 2022

What does An alderman do?

As local legislators, your alderpersons are responsible to the citizens who elected them. Depending on the city’s charter, state law, and the chosen form of government, the specific role and responsibilities can vary significantly from city to city. It is possible that two neighboring cities could operate completely different from each other. Tullahoma has a Private Act Charter, meaning no other municipality in Tennessee operates the same as a Tullahoma. Our charter sets up what is commonly called a Council Administrator form of government. We will dive into the different forms of government allowed by law in Tennessee in a later installment. Today we will focus on the Council-Administrator form of government and how this sets the role of the Alderman.

Council Administrator form of government, and what role the alderman plan
Council Administrator form of government, City of Tullahoma

The council-administrator combines the no separation of powers” doctrine from the weak-mayor form focusing on more responsive representation (through aldermen). That combined with the smaller board and centralized administration staffed by an appointed, trained professional, found primarily in the council-manager form. However, the city administrator usually lacks the full range of powers provided to the chief administrator under the council-manager form. This setup can vary from city to city based on individual charters. Speaking generally, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen will hire a City Administrator charged with running the city’s day-to-day operations.

In this structure, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen cede the administrative capacity to the City Administrator. This structure can be confusing because of the blurred distinction between policy-making and administrative functions. Many newly elected officials have an imperfect understanding of the division of labor between elected officials and staff; they may act as though staff work for them as individuals and should be responsive to their individual priorities and the needs of their specific constituents. Suppose an alderperson runs on fixing the roads, for example. In that case, they, once elected, may believe the proper course of action is to meet directly with the public works director and encourage prompt action. But, the appropriate course of action would be to work through the democratic process with the entire board to make road repairs a priority across the city.

Examples of the difference between policy and administration.

The elected officials set policy that the City Administrator recommends and carries out.
Enact a budget Propose budget; spend within budget limits
Enter into contracts Propose, manage, and enforce contracts
Enact policies and procedures Propose policies and procedures and ensure the enforcement of such.

What else does an Alderman do?

You probably have more questions if you’ve made it to this point in the article. This article intends to be a quick crash course on the role of an alderperson inside of Council Administrator form of government we have set up here in Tullahoma. In future articles, we will dive a little deeper into specific topics that break things down into bite-sized chunks versus the firehose approach in this article. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out!

Frequently Asked Questions

It is the title bestowed upon members of Board of Mayor and Alderman. There are six (6) alderpersons in total; they each serve four-year terms and are responsible for the general oversight and prioritization of the City of Tullahoma's goals. In Tullahoma, we do not have districts or wards, so each alderperson serves the city at large,

The terms alderman and council member have the same meaning. The term alderman comes from the old English title of ealdorman, which means "elder man" or "older man." The term your municipality uses is simply a matter of preference.

The Board of Mayor and Alderman is the legislative body consisting of six alderpersons and one mayor in Tullahoma, each democratically elected on a rotating schedule. The Board's primary responsibility is to decide which services the City of Tullahoma will provide and how to pay for them, among many other tasks.

Like the terms, Alderperson and Council Member, the terms Board of Mayor and Aldermen are different terms to describe the same function.

Aldermen represent citizens of Tullahoma at the city level. Similar to the role of congressmen, they have a duty to speak for the people and safeguard their interests.

In Tullahoma, we do not have city districts or wards, so each alderperson is elected to represent the city at large. Elections are held on even-numbered years on the first Thursday in August.


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