FAIRHOPE – The Fairhope City Council voted Monday, Nov. 2, to name Mayor Sherry Sullivan utilities superintendent at an additional salary of $25,000 a year.
The motion passed unanimously at the organizational meeting in which Sullivan took office and re-elected and new council members were sworn in for a new term. The council also voted to eliminate the position of utilities operations director.
Council President Jack Burrell said he had read statements on social media opposing the superintendent appointment, but said the comments were “much ado over nothing.” He said municipalities throughout Alabama often name the mayor utilities superintendent.
“It’s commonly done in hundreds of towns, hundreds of cities throughout the state of Alabama where the mayor is named the superintendent of utilities and the mayor is already the head of the Utilities Department as the chief executive officer of the city, so I believe that naming her is only natural,” Burrell said. “I don’t think that you have to be an engineer to be the head of utilities. It’s more of a business position and I have confidence that Mayor Sullivan would do a good job in managing the affairs of utilities as superintendent of utilities and if we don’t like the job that she’s doing, and I’m not saying that we ever would not like the job, but if we did, we can always change the way it’s done.”
Sullivan said she would do her best to perform the duties of superintendent and fulfill her other responsibilities.
“Cooperation between the mayor and the council is crucial to the success of our city and it’s going to be crucial in tackling the important issue and projects that we have and I appreciate you having the faith in me to serve as utilities superintendent,” Sullivan said.
Before Sullivan was elected, the council voted to increase the salary of the mayor’s position from $32,400 to $85,000 when the new term began Nov. 2.
Sullivan’s predecessor, Karin Wilson, vetoed the pay increase for mayor and council, but the City Council overrode the veto in September 2019. Wilson had also refused the superintendent position when she took office in 2016 saying that the city needed to use the money to hire other personnel for utilities.
Burrell said Monday that the actions by the council would save the city money. He said that even with the additional $25,000 in Sullivan’s salary, the city would save about $175,000 by eliminating the operations director position.
“I would just like to say that I think that it’s a duplication of effort when you have the mayor as superintendent of utilities. Nobody’s losing their job here. Nobody’s being terminated or let go,” Burrell said. “We are not costing the city money by putting Mayor Sullivan into the position of superintendent of utilities.”
The operations director position had been held by Richard Peterson, who left the position. After Peterson left, Wilson appointed Michael Allison, superintendent of the city Electric Department, to the position as an interim director. Allison will return to his position running the Electric Department, Sullivan said Friday.