Three separate questions on the county ballot ask voters to remove term limits for persons in specific county offices.
Limits of two terms are mandated by the state for all local and state elected officials — unless the voters in their district choose to waive the term limits for specific positions. Twice before, questions asking Montezuma County voters to exempt certain officials from term limits have been on the ballot, but they failed in both instances.
This time, the issue has been divided into three questions. The first asks voters to remove term limits for the county sheriff.
The second question seeks to exempt the county coroner from term limits.
The final ask whether to remove term limits on the county clerk, treasurer, and assessor – three positions that are considered generally non-political and technical in nature.
County commissioners are not included in any of the measures; the two-term limit will continue to apply to them, no matter what.
Jon Stockdale of Cortez, a member of the local Committee to Remove Term Limits, said in the past he supported the limits, “but I had my mind changed on the local level just because of being in a small community. I believe a lot of our local officials are doing a good job. But even if somebody’s doing a good job they’re term-limited out of office.”
He said just finding people to serve on some local governing bodies can be a problem, but even when it isn’t, good officials shouldn’t be thrown out arbitrarily. “If term limits are eliminated, we still have the option of voting that person out of office or recalling them,” he said.
In a paper on the issue, the Committee to Remove Local Term Limits noted that commercial businesses seek to retain good employees, not get rid of them. “To allow a county official to serve more than two terms is merely taking advantage of that person’s experience in office,” the paper states.
The committee is bipartisan and did not have anything to do with placing the questions on the ballot, but is supporting their passage, Stockdale said. “We’re not supporting any political candidate or anything like that, we’re totally bipartisan,” he said.
County Commissioner Dewayne Findley said the commissioners kept their own office out of the term-limit issue deliberately, “so as not to doom it.”
“Two terms are plenty for the commissioners,” he added.
However, he said he can see the rationale for eliminating the limits on some jobs, particularly the technical, clerical ones — clerk, assessor and treasurer.
“They don’t make policy,” he said. “Everything they do is mandated by state statute. I feel like all term limits do is keep you from re-electing good people.”
Findley said term limits make more sense on the national level, where incumbents in Congress, for instance, have a huge advantage in terms of money and name recognition.
“We keep shooting at the national level and keep hitting the state and local level,” he said.
County Assessor Mark Vanderpool is in his first term, as are Clerk Carol Tullis and Treasurer Sandy Greenlee. The coroner, Charlie Rosenbaugh, is in his first term. Sheriff Joey Chavez is term-limited in 2006.