In November, voters will decide whether term limits for the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners should be extended from two terms to three terms.
Currently, commissioners can serve two consecutive, four-year terms and must be elected by vote for each term.
After hearing public comment for one hour, the board voted 3-0 Tuesday to ask voters to give a two-term commissioner the opportunity to seek election for a third term.
Whether there are term limits or not, an election is held at the end of each commissioner’s four-year term. The election is open to any candidate, except for a commissioner who has reached the term limit.
Commissioners made the same argument in November, after supporting District Attorney Will Furse’s request for a third term. Voters rejected that request, Question 7A, by a vote of 63.68% to 36.32%.
Eight people stepped up to the microphone during a spirited term-limit debate.
Several residents said term limits were not needed because voters can remove candidates at the end of each term. Several others argued for term limits and against extending them, saying the limits promote the opportunity for a variety of candidates to gain elected positions.
“We need a pipeline of new, young leaders,” said Mary Dodd. “By extending term limits to 12 years, younger leaders may be shut out.”
Tom Seymour opposed term limits, saying that when voters elected Commissioner Jim Candelaria, “they voted in a younger candidate with a lot of experience” in different areas.
Jill Carlson said term limits promote a more representative government, by “giving a small-business owner or a teacher” that may not necessarily have local generational history a chance to lead.
Dexter Gill said there is no need for mandating term limits because voters have the opportunity to vote an elected official out of office every time his or her term is up.
“The ballot box is how term limits are established, and that is the way the system is intended,” he said. “Experienced people should be able to continue serving in office if they want to and are re-elected.”
Commissioner Keenan Ertel was critical of imposing term limits in general, and supported extending them to be consistent with other elected county positions.
He gave an example of how term limits caused the departure of a valued county assessor, Mark Vanderpool, in 2013.
Vanderpool was instrumental in pursuing a complex property tax case against Kinder Morgan that the county eventually won in a decision by the Colorado Supreme Court.
“We were in the throes of the case, but because he was term-limited out, we lost an experienced and successful assessor,” Ertel said. “That loss was damaging, and it was because of term limits.”
Suckla said extending from two terms to three terms is reasonable and allows time for elected officials to build relationships and momentum to help move the county forward.
“We have gained a foothold on the decision-making at the state and national level” on issues that impact the county, and “that does not happen overnight,” he said.
Newly elected Commissioner Candelaria said extending the term limit to three is consistent with other elected offices and would be beneficial.
“Every four years, there is an election. If you are doing a good job, you make it, and if not, you are replaced,” he said. “We are energetic and ambitious, and I believe we do have the pulse of the younger generation because of who we hang out with.”
In 2007, Montezuma County voters extended term limits for the sheriff, clerk and assessor to three terms. In an election shortly after, voters turned down a proposal to extend term limits to the county commissioners.
For county commission term limits in Colorado, nine counties have three terms, 31 counties have two terms, and 24 counties have no term limits.
Other term limits for Montezuma County officials are: Three four-year terms for assessor, clerk, treasurer and sheriff; two four-year terms for county commissioner; and two four-year terms for district attorney.