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What is a City Administrator and What is Their Role in Tullahoma?

There has recently been a lot of discussion revolving around the City Administrator’s office’s role, responsibilities, and authority. There seems to be a lot of false information and half-truths floating around that I would like to attempt to correct. Understanding the role of both the alderpersons and the City Administrator and how those roles are supposed to work together is very important to unraveling the mystery of local government.

A few quick answers

Absolutely. Both the municipal code and the employment contract with the Administrator give this role the responsibility and requirement to make recommendations.

The City Administrator is the only employee of Board of Mayor and Aldermen, and is the only employee the Board has authority over.

Both the municipal code and the employment agreement with the City Administrator give the City Administrator the sole original authority to hire, reassign, evaluate, and terminate all city employees. The singular exception is before hiring a department head, the City Administrator must give a written recommendation to the board.

No. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen only have the legal authority to hire a City Administrator. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen can reject a recommendation from the City Administrator at which time he or she would continue to make recommendations until the Board agreed.

No. The Mayor has the responsibility of leading the meetings and it is his agenda. The Mayor works with the City Administrator who works with the staff to prepare an agenda.

ANY Alderman may at any meeting add an item to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting when the agenda is being approved.

Also with recent changes, any two alderpersons may add an item to the agenda prior to the meeting.

No. The City Administrator works at the will of the Board within the constraints provided by the Municipal Code and the employment agreement with the City of Tullahoma. He or she has only the power and authority granted them.

If there is an issue with authority granted, one will first need to reference the Municipal Code and employment agreement, to see if there is a conflict. If the conflict is in those the Ordinance will need to be changed and employment agreement renegotiated.

If there is a breach of contract, ordinance, or of public trust, there are mechanisms granted to the elected officials to handle such issues.

First, a little background

In our last article, we talked about the role of an Alderman and learned that Tullahoma has a Council-Administrator form of government. As a quick refresher, in a council-administrator form of government, the Board of Mayor and Alderman are responsible for setting policy. They do not have administrative authority over city staff. Instead, they hire a City Administrator who assumes that administrative role and acts, as their contract states, the C.E.O. of the City of Tullahoma.

To get a better picture, an excellent example of how Tullahoma’s government works, think of a general corporation. In reality, that is what a city is. In Tennessee, as with most states, cities are created by a group of people out of an area of rural county land who agree to incorporate so that they can have services that the county does not provide. This group of people chooses one of the charters that the state offers and then starts the incorporation process.
Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, That the City of Tullahoma, in the County of Coffee, and the inhabitants thereof, are hereby constituted a body politic and corporation by the style and name of the City of Tullahoma and shall have perpetual succession by the corporation name; may sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded, grant, receive, purchase and hold real, mixed and personal property, and dispose of the same for the benefit of said City, and may have and use a corporation seal and change it at its pleasure. [As replaced by Priv. Acts 1951, ch. 513, § 1]

It is important to note that cities have no authority on their own; the state grants them their powers. This structure seems foreign to many because we are the most familiar with how the federal and state governments operate. The U.S. Constitution mandates that all states model the constitutional republic style of government that our federal government follows. Like the federal government, each state has a Constitution that sets up its three branches of government. Unlike cities, which have no authority other than what the state provides, a state’s authority comes from its constitution.

So far in this article, we’ve talked about us having a council-administrator form of government, how cities come to be, where their authority comes from, and that the Board of Mayor and Alderman set policy leaving the administration to the City Administrator. Next, we’ll dive into the role of the city administrator.

demistifying the City Administrator's role

Sections 1-301 and 1-302 of the Tullahoma Municipal Code create the City Administrator’s office, define how that role is appointed, and define the qualifications and duties. Separately, a contract signed by the City and the employee (City Administrator) creates a contractually bound obligation between the two. The primary duty of the City Administrator is “to supervise and coordinate all administrative activities of each department directly under the control of the board of mayor and aldermen in accordance with an organization chart  adopted  by  the  board  of  mayor  and  aldermen  and  filed  with  the  city recorder.

Section 1-301 Creation of the Office

Section 1-301 Creation of the Office

Contractual Agreements via the Employment Agreement



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