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Term limits issue moves to ballot

Farragut residents will take up a term limits referendum on the November ballot.

Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed an ordinance allowing the referendum to be on the fall ballot at its meeting Thursday, Aug. 26.

And in Farragut, term limits will be defined as three terms (12 years) total with only two terms (eight years) in any one office.

“This needs to be as simple as possible,” Mayor Ralph McGill said.

The term limits would not be retroactive, meaning they wouldn’t apply to anyone who has served more than three terms before the term limits are enacted in 2014 — although that was not the original plan.

McGill tried to pass an ordinance that would make term limits retroactive, but the measure failed by a 3 to 2 vote. In order for an ordinance to make it to referendum, at least four members of the Board must vote in the affirmative.

Alderman Bob Markli didn’t like the retroactive idea.

“Just, for example, Mayor [Eddy] Ford could run again [without retroactivity] … Does anyone see that as a problem? I don’t,” Markli said. Ford has served 16 years as mayor; McGill defeated him as Ford ran for his fifth term in 2009.

Alderman John Williams asked Town Attorney Tom Hale if the Town could expect lawsuits if term limits were made retroactive. Hale said it was possible.

“We would have the better end of the argument … but do you even want the argument?” he asked.

“I’m willing to take the chance on retroactive,” McGill said.

“I don’t know I could support that,” Markli said, “I feel it’s a shame to waste that experience, or limit it. ... We shouldn’t disqualify someone for prior service.”

In addition, Markli said, the Town has had historically low interest from those willing to hold an elected position that is entirely volunteer.

“I think we have a somewhat limited talent pool in the Town … people who have the ability and time,” Markli said.

In the end, the Board decided unanimously against making term limits retroactive.

Then came the discussion over whether term limits should be three terms or two.

“If I were king, we’d have two,” McGill said.

“People will expect two terms. That’s what term limits are around these parts,” he added.

Alderman Jeff Elliott said two terms would encourage turnover and open the door for new faces to run for office.

However Vice Mayor Dot LaMarche said she didn’t have a problem with a longer period.

“We’ve got a great mayor here and if he wants to serve 12 years, [good],” she said.

“Forget it,” McGill laughed.

Markli seemed to think eight years was enough in one office.

“In eight years, you’d get comfortable and start to feel like you are that office. Twelve years, golly: that’s a career — kind of a hegemony,” Markli said.

But Markli said serving as an alderman could prepare someone for service as mayor, and two terms might not be enough time to accommodate that.

“Two-thirds of the mayors of this Town had never served as alderman,” McGill said. Both he and Farragut’s first mayor, “Bob” Leonard, had never held elected office before being elected mayor. Ford first served as an alderman before being elected mayor.

Markli moved for three terms total, with a limit of two terms in any one office.

After a long initial discussion, the Board asked Tom Hale to prepare two separate ordinances and return at the end of the meeting for a vote.

McGill initially moved for approval of the retroactive ordinance, which failed. He then moved to approve the non-retroactive ordinance, which Markli seconded. That motion was passed unanimously.

In November, Farragut residents will vote for term limits that come into effect in 2014 and are not retroactive, and which limit future elected officials to three total terms and only two terms in any one office.


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