Confehr: Staggered terms gets support in readership

Friday, March 19, 2010

We have reaction from one reader to another readers' idea on staggered terms for Marshall County commissioners.

It will be hard to improve upon this situation when it comes to the community dialog on our opinion page, so my fellow Americans, mark your calendars.

Luann Reynolds got to thinking about an explanation here two weeks ago when the spark for this dialog was a reader who noted the time is ripe for a request from the county commission to the state lawmakers so the commission here could be trimmed from 18 members to nine.

The second part of the idea was to have commissioners' terms of office rotate; that is, have half elected every two years. It's one way to reduce what one lady called the "apple cart turnover" of change on the commission.

This year there's a number of commissioners who are not running for re-election. There's also reason to believe that there's an anti-incumbent sentiment (AKA Throw the rascals out) among the electorate. That's probably more so in national office elections, but it could affect local races.

So, there's apparently some reason to preserve the institutional memory of the commission. It might limit the learning curve for newly elected officials who've not served before.

So, here's how Mrs. Reynolds suggests that be established.

"If we kept the four-year terms, the staggering of the elections could be done in four years, by having the person with the most votes getting a complete four-year term, for example in 2010-2014. The next person with the second highest votes would only get a two-year term serving only during 2010-2012..."

Then, she continues, in 2012, voters in August "would elect one person for

the 2012-2016 term (and) then we would have rotating system."

Mrs. Reynolds goes a bit further, noting that a four-year term requires a significant commitment on the part of the people who serve on these panels. It's always more than just the county commission. There are committees and other assignments, and they are time-consuming.

"If we went to two-year terms, but not staggered, the same would hold true

with the second highest vote receiver doing a re-election in 2012 for

only two-years to end in 2014, when both commissioner seats would be then

run in 2014 for two-year terms.

"We may get more interested people to run for two years versus four," Mrs. Reynolds said. "Who knows where one will be in 2013?"

Changes as suggested by Mrs. Reynolds require an act of the state Legislature. It's called a private act. I don't know why.

Nevertheless, time is running out for a local government to request a private act to adjust this system for commissioners' terms of office. The session runs into the summer, but it takes some doing to get the request in.

As our first reader on this subject noted, now is the time because there are so many commissioners who are unaffected by the change. They're dropping off the commission.

Letters to the editor are also welcome on this subject.