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Legislature would determine Farragut ‘term limits’ issue

As promised in his campaign, newly-elected Mayor Ralph McGill led a discussion of term limits at his first Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Thursday, April 23.

“This will require more thought and study than I thought it would take,” Town Attorney Tom Hale told the Board.

He explained Farragut gets its general law charter, in its mayor-aldermanic form, from Tennessee Code Annotated. Any change to that charter would require a change in the code, which could affect any municipality in the state with the same charter as Farragut.

“It’s difficult to amend a general law charter,” Hale said.

“You can get it amended if you go through state legislature, but you not only amend yours, it has to be the kind of amendment that everyone can [use] … because … the effect of that is to amend everyone else’s charter who has the same kind of charter in the state of Tennessee,” he added.

Alderman John Williams noted, then, that no other mayor-aldermanic chartered municipality in Tennessee had term limits, or this would already have been taken care of.

Options besides asking state legislature for an amendment included changing Farragut’s charter, Hale said.

“This may require that we consider going to a home rule type of charter for a municipality, which is provided for not in Tennessee Code Annotated but in the state constitution,” Hale said.

The City of Knoxville has such a charter, which allows it more flexibility: it can make amendments to its own charter by referendum.

Newly-elected Alderman Jeff Elliott lauded Hale for his work thus far and requested he “be creative and see what could be done.”

The Board also discussed aligning Farragut’s elections with Knox County, state and federal general elections.

According to Hale, this could be done with an ordinance, but the math itself was a little tricky. The changed election date could only become effective after the next normal Farragut election, which is scheduled for Spring 2011. However, a changed date cannot shorten any elected official’s term.

Thus, Farragut could not be aligned with a general election until 2014, which means those elected this year would have a slightly lengthened term.

“But the important thing is it can be done by ordinance,” Williams said.

“We just need to figure out the math,” McGill added.

However, Williams cautioned the Board to think carefully about moving the election just to increase voter turnout, for the action also could “dilute” issues specific to Farragut residents.

“The people who put you here were focused specifically on Farragut,” Williams said, but if elections were aligned, results could be skewed by voters uneducated on Farragut-centric issues.

“The upside [is] having far more people participate … versus the few people who are uninformed … the upside wins,” McGill said.

Moving the elections also would save the Town about $35,000 per election, Interim Town Administrator Gary Palmer said.

Each of these items was for discussion only; no votes were taken.


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