The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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VII. Wards and Aldermen

Reference Number: MTAS-915
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: August 17, 2016
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1. Municipalities greater than 5,000 population.

  • Upon incorporation, cities with populations of greater than 5,000 shall have two wards. The previous language required such cities to have no fewer than two wards. T.C.A. § 6-3-101(a); Acts 1996, Chapter 652.
  • Cities with populations greater than 5,000 may not decrease wards to fewer than two. T.C.A. § 6-3-101(b); Acts 1997, Chapter 77.

2. Municipalities less than 5,000 population.

  • Upon incorporation, cities with populations of less than 5,000 must have only one ward, with the mayor and two aldermen to be elected at large. T.C.A. § 6-3-101(a); Acts 1996, Chapter 652.
  • Cities incorporated under this charter after June 30, 1991, with populations of fewer than 5,000 and having only one ward, may increase the number of aldermen to a maximum of four without increasing the number of wards, and shall provide for four-year staggered terms. Transitional terms may be less than four years. T.C.A. § 6-3-101(a); Acts 1997, Chapter 77.

3. Number of aldermen per ward. The number of aldermen required for each ward is specified depending on the number of wards. In wards with more than one alderman, the aldermen shall have staggered terms. T.C.A. § 6-3-101(b); Acts 1997, Chapter 77.

4. Increasing or reducing the number of wards and aldermen. Passage of an ordinance by a two-thirds vote of the "entire membership to which the board is entitled" is required to increase or reduce the number of wards and aldermen. The ordinance shall

  • Take effect at the next municipal election but shall not affect the existing terms of members of the board;
  • Specify new ward boundaries;
  • Provide for transitional elections;
  • Provide staggered terms of office;
  • Specify terms of office for the mayor and board;
  • Where a ward is abolished, provide that an alderman in such ward with an unexpired term shall serve as an alderman at large for the remainder of the term. T.C.A. § 6-3-101(c); Acts 1996, Chapter 652.

5. Numerical designation of aldermanic positions. Cities with only one ward may by ordinance designate aldermanic positions by number. Candidates for alderman may seek any one open aldermanic position, and must indicate the position they are running for on their qualifying petition. Ballots will designate “Alderman, position 1,” “Alderman, position 2,” etc. T.C.A. § 6-3-101(b)(2); T.C.A. §6-3-102(a)(2); Acts 2003, Chapter 261.

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