New Gloucester voters will have a chance to weigh in on whether or not to adopt an ordinance establishing term limits for selectmen at our Town Meeting on Monday, May 1.
How does it work?
If enacted, a member of the Board of Selectmen would serve no more than three consecutive three-year terms. After an interval of at least three years, the former selectman may run for and hold the office of selectmen again. Keep in mind that during this absence, he or she is free to apply to serve on other Town boards and committees, if they so choose.
How many years have the longest-serving board members been in office?
One board member has served since 2001. When his term is up in 2019, he would have been on the board for 18 continuous years. Another has served since 2006. When her term is up in 2018, she would have been on the board for 12 continuous years.
Would they be permitted to run again when their terms expire, if they so choose?
No, there is a retroactivity clause in the ordinance.
Why not just vote out a selectman when his or her term expires?
Voting on selectmen occurs at the June election when turnout is historically low. Many times the turnout is at the 15-20% level, and the election is decided by just a handful of voters. The possible reason that a candidate may win is because they are adept at ‘get-out-the-vote’ efforts, rather than being a reflection of job approval ratings by the citizenship at large.
Why would term limits benefit the Town?
Term limits would likely cultivate a healthy balance of fresh perspective and institutional knowledge among board members.
If term limits were enacted, would it produce a shortage of candidates in ensuing elections?
During the last six years (and perhaps in prior years), there has been ample interest shown in running for this office, as evidenced by the fact that the number of candidates has outnumbered the number of open seats. In both 2011 and 2014, two candidates ran for 1 open seat; and in each of the years 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016, four candidates ran for two open seats.
Is the ordinance legal?
The citizen’s petition, which contained the ordinance, passed legal muster by Town Attorney Philip Saucier of Bernstein Shur in January 2017.