Jeff Downes became the City Manager for Vestavia Hills in July 2013 after retiring from the City of Montgomery, Alabama, where he spent the last decade of his twenty-six year career there as an executive level leader and carried the title of Deputy Mayor. He possesses a wealth of experience and understanding of municipal government and is especially adept at connecting people to promote community and economic growth. He espouses New Urbanist philosophy for creating quality living spaces in urban development, and economic development is a primary focus of his efforts in Vestavia Hills. He is also on the Board of Directors for the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham.
Mr. Downes has demonstrated ability to lead innovation within government. Mr. Downes began his career with the City of Montgomery in 1987 as a college intern in the Finance Department. His responsibility included supplementing staff roles in all divisions of the Finance Department and implementation of special projects under leadership of the Director of Finance. In April 1989, Mr. Downes was hired permanently by the City as its first Risk Manager. Under his direction, the Risk Management Division began numerous initiatives designed to control the costs of certain risk exposures, which included the creation of a Workers’ Compensation Management System, a fully integrated employee assistance program; drug testing program; international drug importation program; self-insured liability program; and flexible spending account program. In 2003, Mayor Bobby Bright tapped him to serve as one of his Executive Assistants. Mr. Downes focused on public works, council relations, downtown projects and technology matters for the City. Upon the election of Mayor Todd Strange, Mr. Downes was promoted to the position of Chief of Staff/Deputy Mayor. This was a newly-created role providing overall leadership in the operations of the City of Montgomery. Also during his time in Montgomery, Mr. Downes helped establish the non-profit organization Eat South, whose mission is to support urban agriculture and healthy eating similar to the Jones Valley Farm in Birmingham.
Jeff Downes graduated with honors from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration and from AUM with a Master of Public Administration. He is a Certified Workers’ Compensation Claims Adjuster and is the former Chairman of the Board of Trustees for States Risk Retention Group (SRRG), a captive insurance company domiciled in Vermont. He continues to serve on the board of SRRG, and in 2016 he joined the board of directors for the Alabama Local Government Health Insurance Board.
Mr. Downes has served in many community groups: Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Weed and Seed Program, St. Bede Child Development Center Board of Directors, Health Services Inc., and Hampstead Institute and Catholic Social Services. He is a graduate of Leadership Montgomery and Leadership Alabama. He also is proud to share that he earned the rank of Eagle Scout in his youth. Since moving to Vestavia Hills, he has joined the Vestavia Hills Sunrise Rotary Club and graduated with the Leadership Vestavia Hills Class of 2015. Continuing his work with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Jeff instituted at the City of Vestavia Hills the first government worksite match program in Alabama. He has also successfully promoted employee participation in United Way and has served twice as the Municipal Division Lead for the annual campaign of the United Way of Central Alabama. Jeff is married to the love of his life, Penny Downes. Along with his family, Jeff has become a parishioner at St. Mark’s Catholic Church. They live in Liberty Park and have four children—Chad, Sydney, Harrison and Alex.