Term limits plan to be considered

Tim Jantz, chairman of the Moffat County Republicans, presented a resolution to the Moffat County Commissioners Monday morning asking for a ballot initiative to eliminate term limits for all elected county officials except for the Moffat County Commissioners.

The commissioners did not take action Monday morning, but have taken the proposal under consideration.

About ten people attended the meeting to hear Jantz's proposal, which the commissioners have until July 29th to put on the ballot for this November.

The resolution presented to the commissioners, which stems from a vote at the Republican County Assembly, asks that the question be put on the ballot to remove term limits for county clerk and recorder, county treasurer, county assessor, county coroner and county sheriff.

The resolution reads:

"Such offices which purposes are to administrate policies rather than create and change policy, would better serve the public if not restricted by term limits."

The question was soundly defeated in 1996 when 2,971 people voted no to removing term limits and 1,621 people voted yes.

That year the office of county commissioner was included in the question. The resolution presented by the Republican party this year excludes the commissioners.

"I think this grassroots process that came forward speaks for itself," said Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead. "We need to listen to what the citizens want even though it's been on the ballot before."

A decrease in the turn-over of people serving in these offices would improve the efficiency of county government, Grinstead said.

"It takes four years to get your feet wet and the next four years to set up what you want to do," he said. "I think we need to follow what they recommended."

Saed Tayyara said the office of county commissioner is different from the other offices, and encouraged the commissioners to use the exact wording laid out in the proposed resolution if they choose to put it on the ballot.

"Politicians don't have to go to school to be a commissioner," Tayyara said. "The other jobs do. I recommend you do not change the wording because it is specifically stated that the commissioners not be included."

Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos disagreed that the office of county commissioner is different from other elected offices.

"I disagree," she said in response to Tayyara. "I'm in here everyday doing administrative work. You should have a degree to be a commissioner. It's a very technical job."

She said it also takes time to learn the job of county commissioner.

"It takes four years to get your feet wet in this job as well," she said. "It's a high learning curve."

Raftopoulos said she would like to get more input from the public before a decision is made.

"We feel obligated to get all the information we can," she said. "We need more facts. I would like to hear formally from the Democratic party and other people in the public. As far as we're concerned the commissioners can be left off the ballot."

Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson said the commissioners will have to consider what has been presented.

"I respect this grassroots process," Dickinson said. "I personally believe from the information given that we should take this under advisement and look at it."

Dickinson expressed his philosophical belief in term limits.

"I have voted in favor of every elected official currently sitting," he said. "But I support term limits. Nothing in my term has convinced me that we should not have term limits for all elected officials."

This goes especially for small communities, he said.

"When we vote people out of office we create divisions in the community that last for years," he said. "I believe when you step into office it is not a career but a service to the community. For those who think this is a career path maybe they should look to rework the system to where the jobs are appointed. I believe term limits are important and should be there for all elected officials."

Commissioner Les Hampton said he thought the commissioners had three possible avenues in making a decision on the proposal.

They include:

Denying it.

Putting it on the ballot exactly as written in the resolution.

Allowing people to vote on each office separately.

Raftopoulos said a public meeting would be held to get more input from the community.

Tayyara said he did not understand why a resolution presented from the Republican party is not enough.

"When they say they want a candidate on the ballot you listen but when they say this you don't listen," he said. "You have to give the public the choice."

City council member Kent Nielson, who is running for county commissioner next fall, agreed that enough information is there to put the question on the ballot.

"You keep talking about getting more public information," Nielson said. "I think a vote to the public is the best way to get the information. I would encourage you to put it on the ballot."

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