Voters will be asked in November if term limits for the 22nd Judicial District Attorney should be extended from two four-year terms, to three four-year terms.
The district covers Montezuma and Dolores counties, and both boards of commissioners approved the ballot measure at the request of District Attorney Will Furse.
Furse will reach the term limit allowed for holding the office in 2020, and he wants to seek re-election if voters approve the third term extension.
He says voters should be given the opportunity to re-elect their district attorney if that is their choice. Furse said the community would benefit from “continuity and experience” in the office and allow successful programs to continue if he is allowed to run for a third term and is re-elected.
“It promotes stability in the office and gives assurances to staff,” he said. “The opportunity to serve three terms would allow the district attorney to engage in long-term planning and ensure continuity for programs previously launched or newly developed.”
During his terms, Furse said, he implemented a districtwide grand jury system, expanded juvenile and adult diversion programs, supported pretrial services, and specialty court programs such as drug and DUI courts.
In 1994, Colorado voters approved a Constitutional amendment that set term limits for all elected offices in the state. The amendment does allow local governments to place term-limit exemption or modification questions on local ballots.
Since 1994, 56 out of 64 counties have removed or extended term limits for one or more elected offices, including Montezuma and Dolores counties. Furse said one-third of Colorado judicial districts have extended term limits for district attorneys.
Commissioners Keenan Ertel and James Lambert supported Furse’s request for a ballot question asking voters to extend the term limit. Commissioner Larry Don Suckla was not present for the vote. Furse would still need to run as a candidate for the position.
Ertel said he is against all term limits, and he suggested a ballot question eliminating all of them for elected county officials.
“Term limits can be very destructive,” Ertel said. “We had a great assessor (Mark Vanderpool) who was at the peak of his game, but was forced out by term limits.”
Ertel called term limits an “arbitrary imposition” and added that every election, voters have the opportunity to limit an elected official’s time in office.
“They can be voted in or out in every election cycle,” he said.
According to Montezuma County Clerk Kim Percell, the ballot language reads:
“Shall term limits imposed by state law of the Colorado Constitution on the office of District Attorney of the 22nd Judicial District be modified so as to permit an elected office holder in that office to seek and to serve a third consecutive term if elected?”
The question also will be on the November ballot in Dolores County. Both counties must approve the measure for the term limits to be extended.
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.
“Extending the DA’s term limit to three would consistent with what our voters have previously authorized for other elected offices in Montezuma County including the sheriff, clerk and treasurer,” Furse said.
“This ballot measure does not guarantee any current or future DA ... will be re-elected, but it does provide voters with the freedom of choice to elect that DA for a third term if they so desired.”