The elected officials of the Milton shared their thoughts on changing the city’s election date and potentially adding term limits during Monday’s executive committee meeting. Although no action was taken, there was plenty of discussion amongst council members and Mayor Wesley Meiss.
The term limit topic was brought before the council during the administration committee portion of the meeting. Council member Alan Lowery brought up the issue while filling in for Chairwoman Marilyn Jones, who was absent at the meeting.
Council member Jimmy Messick was the first to speak against adding term limits and in favor for changing the election date, which typically begins during the primary election, scheduled for August 30, 2016.
“I think the term limit is not a good thing to do and I think changing the election date maybe a good thing to do,” Messick said. “In my opinion there is a limited number of people who are willing to run for these offices anyway. If you term them out then you have problem of finding people who are willing to run and serve for these (positions).”
Messick added it is up for the citizens of Milton to decide whether an incumbent should remains in office or a new candidate should be elected.
“I think when the people vote that is enough said,” Council member Patsy Lunsford said. “If people want me Lloyd (Hinote) and some of the others on here, I think we should have that opportunity.”
Council member Lloyd Hinote agreed adding term limits could restrict elected officials from accomplishing set goals when taking office.
“Operating this city is like operating a big business and I don’t know of any sensible business that hires a person, trains them and makes them leave at a certain time,” Hinote said. “People come in here and learn. They practice what they learn and there are some trial and errors for sure. To put someone in office and have things be going great and (then) take them out of office because so many weeks and months have passed, I don’t see that.”
Council member Mary Ellen Johnson said there are other disadvantages to having term limits.
“A continuity of experience is something we have to look at,” she said. “There is a process and procedure, some of these things, ideas and processes take for awhile.”
Having a term limit could also further detract potential candidates from seeking office, said council member Ashley Lay.
“If you are setting a limit on you terms, you are pushing away some people,” Lay said. “I don’t know if you are going to have a full pool of applicants.”
Lay added the City of Milton is not the only municipality to not have term limits for elected officials, based on her experience with the Northwest Florida League of Cities organization.
“There are some many cities that celebrate the years of service and you won’t believe how long these people have served, so we are not uncommon,” Lay said.
Glen Hill, a local restaurant manager, suggested the decision of term limits be placed on a future ballot.
“Across the board, the people have supported term limits at the constituent level,” Hill said. “Maybe this council should consider sending that to the ballot since there are several other major initiatives on this next ballot anyway.”
Messick said the constituency can propose a change to the city charter through a signed petition from registered voters.
While Lowery was the lone proponent of term limits on the council, the idea did receive support from Mayor Wesley Meiss.
“I think the healthiest thing for the City of Milton going forward in the future would be term limits for elected officials,” Meiss said. “I think the city council members that have been here for 20 plus years have done a great job, but you’ve got to remember what this nation was founded on. George Washington was our first president and many historians will say George Washington did a lot of great things in his life and that is true, but perhaps the greatest thing he ever did was walk away after his second term.”
While the council may not have agreed on term limits, the council was in favor of changing the election date. Several were in favor of allowing for more time to campaign during a cooler time of year. Lay said changing the date and allowing more time to campaign would encourage more candidates to run for office and draw more voters.
“These are just some of the things we need to talk through,” Lay said.
The council will further discuss both term limits and changing the election date at an upcoming city workshop scheduled for November 14. Any proposed changes to the city’s charter would not be made official at the council workshop and would instead require a council vote during a regular meeting.