Advocacy Day, 2019 Established on May 15, 1935, as a voluntary association of Alabama’s cities and towns, the Alabama League of Municipalities (ALM) is the primary lobbying advocate for Alabama municipalities, representing its members to the Alabama State Legislature, in the U.S. Congress, and with numerous administrative agencies. The ALM currently represents some 460 municipalities and provides services that include training for municipal leaders; conferences and meetings where municipal officials and employees can share their views and experiences; and outreach to Alabama citizens regarding the operations of their municipal governments. Its mission is to empower municipal government through advocacy, training, and the advancement of effective local leadership. The organization is headquartered in Montgomery, Montgomery County.
Alabama League of Municipalities The origins of ALM lie in a part-time organization of locally elected officials known as the Alabama Association of Mayors and City Commissioners, which was formed at a 1926 gathering of nearly 100 municipal officials in Fairfield, Jefferson County. The organization had no full-time office or staff, so information among members was largely channeled through the president, Anniston mayor Sidney Reaves. In 1928, the members attended a meeting in Selma, Dallas County, at which the name was changed to Alabama League of Municipalities to shift the focus from officials to municipalities. In 1935, the organization established a formal office in Montgomery and hired a full-time director with the assistance of grant funds from the American Municipal Association (predecessor to the National League of Cities). Jasper mayor John Burton was elected president of the new organization and, with Maurice “M.L.” Robertson, former long-time mayor of Cullman, and Birmingham city comptroller Charles E. Armstrong, was appointed to a nominating committee to conduct a search for the ALM’s first executive director. Acting on a recommendation from Gov. Bibb Graves, they nominated Ed E. Reid, a 25-year-old Evergreen native with a background in journalism and government. He was subsequently hired for the position and took the helm of the new municipal service organization, with an initial membership of 28 cities and towns from around the state. Reid would go on to become one of the most effective advocates for municipalities in Alabama.
The inaugural year of the ALM was a difficult one, as Alabama, like the rest of the nation, was trying to fight its way out of the Great Depression. Unemployment was rampant, and the majority of municipalities had kept services going on borrowed money and were heavily in debt. Sources of revenue had dried up and pay for municipal employees was inadequate. Cities and towns had a great need to increase revenue, revise municipal borrowing powers, and have the ability to engage in economic development projects to improve local communities. There was also a need to unshackle local governing bodies so they could actively participate in the recovery that Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Congress were stimulating through special public works programs. The league played an important role in moving Alabama’s municipalities forward during a critical time.
Ed E. Reid By 1945, league membership had expanded to 205 incorporated municipalities, and in 1948, the league began publishing The Handbook for Mayors and Councilmembers every four years. Within 15 years of its inception, the Alabama League was rated in the top five in the nation by the National League of Cities, with Reid cited by the national association as a top source of information on local government. His leadership and political acumen resulted in the passage of key legislation that made the Alabama Highway Department financially responsible for maintaining state and federal roadways passing through municipalities; increased the scope of decisions local governments could make without consulting state lawmakers; enhanced municipalities’ abilities to levy and collect taxes; and established improved compensation and benefits structures for mayors, commissioners, and other elected officials in cities and towns. In 1961, the first comprehensive municipal elections laws were enacted after a successful advocacy campaign by the league.
Following Reid’s untimely death in 1965, ALM staff attorney John Watkins was named executive director. He oversaw the passage of many important pieces of legislation during his years as director, including allowing municipal governing bodies to determine officials’ salaries and a constitutional amendment creating a trust fund of revenues and royalties from offshore oil and natural gas drilling. (A portion of this fund now goes to Alabama cities and towns for capital improvement projects when interest on the fund exceeds $60 million in any given year.) In 1976, Watkins led the effort to create the highly successful Municipal Workers Compensation Fund, Inc., which provides workers’ compensation insurance to municipalities, housing authorities, water and sewer utilities, and gas and power utilities. During his tenure, the ALM acquired property on Adams Avenue in Montgomery, a block from the State Capitol, and built a new headquarters. The original building, which opened in 1970 and was expanded in 1992 and 2001, continues to serve as the ALM headquarters.
Alabama Municipal Journal After nearly 30 years of service, John Watkins retired in May 1986, at which time staff attorney Perry C. Roquemore Jr. was named executive director. Under Roquemore’s leadership, additional member programs were added, including the Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation in 1989 to provide liability insurance coverage for cities, towns, utilities and municipal associations; the Alabama Municipal Funding Corporation in 2006 to provide financing for capital improvement projects and equipment purchases; and the Certified Municipal Official (CMO) program, a voluntary continuing education curriculum offering several levels of certification designed specifically for elected officials. The CMO program was only the second such program in the country when it was established in 1994. The ALM also formed the Alabama Association of Municipal Attorneys in 1992, launched its official website in 1998, developed a Loss Control Division in 2002 to provide a variety of risk management services to its members, and created the Alabama Municipal Judges Association in 2007.
Roquemore retired in April 2011, and ALM deputy director and general counsel Ken Smith was named executive director the following month. During his tenure, Smith oversaw expansion of in-house technology and programming, electronic publications, and social media as well as added several new member services, including a program to help municipalities collect outstanding debts and League Law, an online municipal legal research system. The League’s executive director position transitioned for the fifth time in July 2020, when Deputy Director Greg Cochran, a 24-year employee with a background in advocacy and governmental relations, was named executive director following Smith’s retirement. With Cochran’s ascension came a deeper focus on advocacy as well as additional concerted education and outreach efforts to further position the Alabama League of Municipalities as the expert in and voice for municipal government and expand its partnerships in the state.
The ALM is overseen by a president, vice president, and executive director and is governed by a Board of Directors composed of the president, vice president, all active past presidents still in office as voting ex officio members, and five to seven members from each of the state’s congressional districts. Additionally, six standing committees develop and implement ALM policies and procedures: State and Federal Legislation; Administration and Intergovernmental Relations; Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources; Community and Economic Development; Transportation, Public Safety and Communication; and Human Development. First published in 1937 as the monthly Alabama Municipal News, the Alabama Municipal Journal is the League’s official magazine. It is produced quarterly in digital and print formats.