Council discusses whether department heads must live in city

Published 10:22 pm Friday, August 5, 2016

The Selma City Council is considering revisiting a policy that requires department heads to live within the city limits.

The city council adopted the policy in September 2014. The rule affects department heads across the city, including the police and fire departments.

Before the changes in 2014, department heads could live in either Selma or Dallas County.

Any change to the ordinance would allow department heads to live in the city or county but not beyond.

Mayor George Evans said the rule as it is currently would prevent several fire department employees from being promoted to battalion chief shortly.

“The majority of the people who would be eligible live in the county. They don’t live in the city,” Evans said. “I thought it would be a good time to rescind that rule and go back to what we had the entire time.”

The council discussed the issue during a special called meeting Wednesday but ultimately tabled the matter.

Councilwoman Susan Keith, who sponsored the ordinance in 2014, said she was still for requiring department heads to live within the city.

“There are fine people in all departments that live in the county, but it begs the question why do people not live within the city limits. I’m not comfortable with someone running our city that doesn’t care enough about the city to live in it,” Keith said. “That’s just my opinion. I know it’s going to make a lot of people mad.”

Keith said she wants people to view Selma as a good place to work but also live and raise a family.

“It’s not just a good place to work. I think the department heads need to be invested enough in the city to live in the city and help us fight these battles.”

Evans said the rule affect longtime employees, especially in the police and fire department, more often that new employees moving to the city.

No other council member spoke up in favor or against changing the ordinance.

Councilwoman Angela Benjamin did say the council needed to make up its mind and be consistent.

“We have to stop moving ordinances and codes and things for our friends,” Benjamin said. “We need to make up our minds. Do we want them to live in the city or do we not?”

Evans told the council he brought up the issue because employees have asked him about it.

“I only brought this to the council’s attention because it’s been brought to me. Since department heads and other employees have asked me about this rule, I thought it would be wise to bring it to the legislative body that makes the rules,” Evans said.