Tuesday marked the first day for local candidates to officially throw their hats into the ring for next month’s municipal elections throughout the county.

Mayor and council seats are up for grabs in all 11 of Cullman County’s municipalities. Most incumbent mayors, as well as a bevy of sitting council members, have announced they intend to seek their offices again — with a few exceptions.

The qualifying window for municipal offices is brief — July 17 is the deadline for all candidates to pay their towns’ fees and file the necessary papers. That means the next two weeks will be busy for town clerks responsible for receiving and filing paperwork, as well as for the Cullman County probate judge’s office, which accepts candidates’ financial papers under the Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA).

“All of the paperwork is available in your local town clerk’s office, including the FCPA paperwork,” said Hanceville city clerk Tania Wilcox. “The clerk takes in your qualifying fee and your filing paperwork, except for the FCPA sheets, which must be turned in at the probate judge’s office. It’s a lot of work for me, and I know it;s a lot of work for the candidates, too.”

Wilcox said it’s important for candidates to keep in mind that they are responsible for educating themselves on how to fill out their paperwork, and to track filing deadlines.

“Like the clerks in all of the towns, I’ll be glad to help anybody in any way that I’m allowed, but it’s not the clerks’ jobs to make sure that every candidate has filled everything out correctly,” Wilcox explained. “The law really doesn’t put us in a position to advise candidates on how to fill everything out; that’s a responsibility that falls on them.”

Beginning in August, Cullman County residents can look forward to the possibility of going to the polls once every month until November. Municipal elections will be held August 28; a statewide election on the Alabama Medicaid Amendment is set for Sept. 18; runoffs for municipal elections would be held Oct. 9; and the general election will take place Nov. 6.

“Busy, busy, busy,” said probate elections coordinator Monica Kugler. “It starts now — really, it’s already started...we’re going to have our hands full for the next several months. People come in and ask a lot of questions, and we try to help them with everything we’re allowed to help with. Sometimes we can’t, because it’s not legal for us to give candidates advice on how they should plan their campaigns. It’s a lot to keep track of, but we do it.”

The Alabama Secretary of State’s office provides an online candidate filing guide for FCPA filings, as well as a general resources page for candidates.

The municipal elections section of the Alabama League of Municipalities’ website also contains general information for municipal candidates.

Check The Times for weekly updates as the municipal qualifying period moves forward.

* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at bbullard@cullmantimes.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.

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