MADISON, Ala. - The day after dozens of city election races across the valley is the calm after the storm. And in one of the bigger races, Paul Finley not only dodged a runoff, he took the Madison mayoral race outright with over 60% of the vote.
The last time we had a mayoral transition in the city of Madison, it went from Finley to Trulock. Now it goes back the other way.
We caught up with Finley in the aftermath of the election to talk about his expectations for the transition.
First and foremost, Finley said he did his best to make the transition for Mayor Trulock clean and easy. Now, he said he wants the same thing. After a few days, he plans to start meeting with Madison influencers.
The transition plan
By the time Paul Finley announced victory at his election night gathering, he'd already spoken to current mayor Troy Trulock.
Finley told us, "When I talked to Troy, he did call me, and he simply said, 'Congratulations.' I said, 'Troy, I look forward to a smooth transition,' and he said, 'Yes, I do too.'"
Throughout the evening, the Finley campaign didn't just track the mayor's race, it tracked council races too. The general sentiment of the crowd seemed to favor the returning council-members who were running. Finley said familiarity with the city government will be an asset in transition.
"We know where the bathrooms are. We can hit the ground running," Finley said. He said that will let him get to the issues he heard raised by voters.
"We'll jump into this pretty quickly and start looking at some of the problems that we' have and some of the areas that we've said, 'Hey, schools, we'll start talking to the people we need to talk to.'"
And the biggest focus of a Finley regime reborn?
"The biggest priority we heard from the citizens is school funding. That's going to be the priority that we have within two or three days, two or three weeks, two or three months until we solve that. I don't know what the solving looks like, because I haven't been a part of a lot of those conversations. But you investigate. You get the information. And then we'll start working day by day by day to make it happen."
Three returning council members will be there waiting for Finley when he takes office, along with four new faces - not all of which have been determined yet.
Burying the hatchet once more
Finley says his camp plans to get started immediately. Another of their missions? Fix a fracture in city government.
You may remember during Finley's first administration, he buried a hatchet with the city of Huntsville.
So when our crew on the scene at Finley's election watch part saw a hatchet sitting out at his campaign headquarters on Tuesday, they thought maybe he had unearthed it.
But no -- Finley told us that was another hatchet he has -- also for burying.
He calls it the "council hatchet."
"That's the hatchet that's going to be buried with council. We did one with Mayor Battle. That's going to go back on the wall at city hall. But we had such discrepancy in communication between council and mayor, whichever seven council members we get, we're committed to working with them. We understand our role. We understand their role. And Madison has to start with our own house in order. That hatchet will be buried with city council. We'll start fresh. We'll go make positive things happen," Finley said.
Many in the Finley camp at the campaign headquarters rooted for incumbent council members to be re-elected. They believe they can restore their trust in the mayor's office.
Finley said, "Well, easily, Taylor Edge was our number two guy. You can call him whatever you want to, but he was the internal presence who project managed and communicated. When we come into office, that should be in the budget. We will immediately put Taylor in that position. Now you've got your inside outside connection, which should get results."
Finley says he thinks that the re-election of incumbent council members shows that the people of Madison believe the communication problems came from the top.