Term limits plan gets mixed reviews

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The question of whether to get rid of term limits for all elected in officials in Moffat County except for county commissioners is getting mixed reviews from area office holders.

The Moffat County Commission will review a ballot initiative that would remove the two-term limit from every office except for the county commission at its meeting Friday. The board is scheduled to discuss the matter at 1 p.m. at the county courthouse.

Those offices that would be unrestricted as far as terms include the clerk and recorder, county treasurer, county assessor, county coroner and county sheriff.

The local Republican Party introduced the initiative, arguing that those offices that enforce policy created by the county commission should have greater stability.

Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said he believes the current term limits fail to promote needed stability.

"It took three years for me to fully understand the complexity of things," Grinstead said. "And at that point, you want to implement new programs in the community. If you're gone, what assurance do you have that those programs will actually be implemented?

"If you get someone who does a good job and has the experience, aren't we shooting ourselves in the foot by removing that person (through term limits)?"

Grinstead said he also believes term limits restrict the voting process.

"We've lost our right in the say so of the voting process," Grinstead said. "People need to have voter rights returned to them in choosing to elect or not to reelect an official."

County Assessor Dennis Shanahan said term limits could hamstring an office through the loss of "institutional memory."

"You need experience and expertise to handle these jobs," Shanahan said. "We don't make political decisions. We do a job."

Shanahan also said term limits do not necessarily encourage accountability.

"People don't care, if they decide not to run again. You don't even have to show up," Shanahan said.

Shanahan said term limits would always be in place regardless of what laws are enacted.

"We've always had term limits," Shanahan said. "It's called voting."

Moffat County Commissioner said she has no problem putting the question on the ballot "but we do need to get more information and more public input at the meeting."

"We will see what the public says," Raftopoulos said.

Raftopoulos said she believes two questions need to be examined Friday.

"The first is, should we put it on the ballot again," Raftopoulos said. "The second is, should we put it on each individual office, excluding the county commissioners."

Raftopoulos said a similar question appeared on the Moffat County ballot in 1996, and failed by a significant margin.

In 1996, 2,971 people voted no to removing term limits, while 1,621 voted yes.

Republican Party members have argued, however, that the reason that the question failed was because term limits would have been removed from county commissioners.

County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson said he is in favor of term limits.

"Any elected office should have term limits placed upon them," Dickinson said. "I believe in a citizen legislature. By that, I mean elected offices are not a career.

"It's healthy to have turnover in these jobs. It sets up a healthy check and balance system."

Dickinson, who will be leaving office in January because of term limits, said he believed divisions could be created within the community without term limits.

"Too often, I've seen folks stay for one term too long," Dickinson said. "And rather than honoring the good, everybody has hard feelings. It separates the community.

"The last time this was brought to the ballot, our community supported it (term limits). And who am I to question the voters? But I'm willing to listen."

A petition drive to put the question on the ballot has been started and if the signatures of five percent of the voting population can be gathered it will automatically be placed on the ballot.

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