S P D - Alabama

The State Personnel Department

A Brief History

The merit system owes its start in Alabama to a determined effort to generally improve administrative efficiency in state government. Enactment of a merit system law was one of a number of recommendations for organizational and administrative improvement that Governor Frank Dixon made to the 1939 State Legislature. While it did not overlook the problems of the spoils system, his message on the subject was essentially an eloquent argument for the merit system as a factor in governmental efficiency. Quoting from Governor Dixon's address:

"Under our present system, the chief duty of the Governor of Alabama is running an employment agency. Many thousands of applications are on file for places; each applicant has a right to come and present his claim in person, and it is humanly impossible for the Governor to act for the best interest of the State in patronage matters, even assuming that he spends his entire time attending to that."

In this same message, delivered on the third day of the 1939 Legislature, the Governor called attention to the inefficiency resulting from numerous independent boards, bureaus, and governmental agencies, and recommended "certain administrative changes." His recommendations spelled out plans for the consolidation of related functions into larger departments and placing these departments under single department directors, rather than commissions and boards. On this same day, bills were introduced to create six reorganized departments and to establish the merit system. All were enacted. The six departments were: Revenue, Highway, Finance, Corrections, Pardons and Paroles, and Personnel.

The Basic Law

The new merit system law created a Personnel Department to be administered by a Personnel Director who answered to an independent board. The Board originally consisted of three members, appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate for staggered six-year terms. The terms overlapped so that one expired every two years. In 1983, the legislature restructured the Board increasing its members to five, each serving staggered six-year terms. Two members are now appointed by the Governor, one by the Lieutenant Governor, one by the Speaker of the House, and one an elected classified state employee, i.e., an employee subject to all merit system rules and regulations. The need for Senate confirmation of appointments was eliminated. By law the Board is required to meet once each month. Its principal functions are to:

While the law arranges for independence and continuity of the system from one administration to the next, the Governor is assured input in matters of fundamental importance. His approval is required for Board rules to become effective. The pay plan and changes to it adopted by the Board must be submitted to the Governor, who may approve, change, or disapprove them.

Department Organization

The Personnel Department is sub-divided into several statutory and service divisions represented by the links below. To learn more about each of these divisions click the corresponding link.