Hudson City Council considers term limits for elected offices

Legislators eye possible changes to charter for November 2021 ballot

PHIL KEREN
Reporter

HUDSON — City voters may be asked next year to decide whether council and mayoral positions should carry term limits.

City Council discussed the issue at a recent meeting, and the dialogue concluded with Council President Bill Wooldredge (At-Large) asking a couple members to work with the city’s legal department on drawing up a proposed charter change to implement term limits for council and mayoral seats. Wooldredge added the goal would be to put a term limits charter amendment before voters in November 2021.

Council member Hal DeSaussure (At-Large) said Clerk of Council Elizabeth Slagle has done research to learn what types of term limits (if any) other area communities have. He noted that council should review that information as they craft a potential charter change.

Though nothing has been formally proposed, council members generally seemed to agree that a citizen should be restricted to two four-year terms in office for both council and mayor. Since the mayor’s office is a non-voting position, members seemed to generally favor allowing someone to serve two terms on council and then two terms as mayor, or vice versa. Members agreed that language was needed in the proposal to address how long someone can serve if they are appointed to fill a vacancy that occurs in the middle of a term.

At the recent discussion on Aug. 4, Council member Chris Foster (Ward 2) said he requested that the issue be put on the agenda because he favors establishing term limits for the elected positions. He noted term limits are already in place for state representatives, state senators and members of the city’s boards and commissions.

“I don’t think that we should allow somebody to serve [on council] as long as we have permitted it in the past,” Foster said.

Foster said he was interested in trying to put the issue on this November’s ballot. Council member Skylar Sutton (Ward 3) said he had “some concerns” about having a term limit proposal on this year’s ballot along with several other proposed charter amendments that were recommended by the charter review commission.

“Maybe we hold it until it’s able to go as its own item where people can have a discussion about just this,” added Sutton.

Council ultimately agreed to target November 2021 to put the charter amendment on the ballot.

Wooldredge said he felt “there’s a lot of merit” to establishing term limits. 

“I’m not sure what those limits should be,” said Wooldredge. “Certainly no more than three terms, maybe only two terms… there are a lot of very good candidates in Hudson, a lot of very good people. Perhaps it would make a lot of sense to have term limits. I think especially for council.”

Council member Beth Bigham (Ward 4) said she was “very supportive” of setting up term limits and noted she thought two terms are “a good place to start.”

“We definitely have a deep bench…of civically minded and engaged residents,” said Bigham.

She noted she believed having term limits would “lend itself to a richer, more diverse experience for our city.”

Sutton added he felt term limits were a “good idea,” and said he felt a person’s service as either an At-Large or Ward council member should count toward their term limits.

“I would think any voting seat should count,” Sutton said. “So whether you’re flipping between At-Large and Ward, it doesn’t matter. They still count toward your tenure.”

Sutton noted he thought two terms was a “good number,” but emphasized he felt language should be in the proposal to allow someone appointed to council for a short period of time to still be able to serve two full elected terms in office. He said he favored having term limits for the mayoral seat; however, he noted he was “not necessarily opposed” to a person reaching their term limit on council and then running for mayor.

“The mayor’s not a voting member,” said Sutton. “The roles are different.”

Noting she felt there was “something to be said for institutional knowledge,” Council member Kate Schlademan (Ward 1) suggested council consider allowing someone who terms out to then be able to run again once a certain amount of time passes. Sutton noted there needed to be more discussion about if someone could serve two terms, have a “cooling off period” of four years and then be allowed to run again, or if the two terms was the full extent of what they were allowed to do.

While noting there are many people who are qualified to serve on council, Schlademan said, “not everyone has the time or the energy or the commitment to actually commit to the council. I don’t know how much that would limit us.”

Schlademan added some other communities have charter language stating that if someone is appointed to serve for less than two years on council, they can still run for two elected terms.

Foster suggested that the restriction could be two full, elected terms or “not to exceed 11 years” if a person is first appointed to fill a vacancy.

Council has not yet scheduled another discussion on this issue.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.