The Sandy Springs Charter Commission thinks the city’s mayor and City Council members should be limited to two four-year terms in office.
The commission voted 5-3 June 21 to recommend that Sandy Springs elected officials be barred from seeking three consecutive four-year terms in office. The commission recommended the term limits begin with the 2017 election. The mayor and members of council now may seek reelection without any limitations on the terms they may serve.
The commission, appointed by state legislators, is reviewing the city charter to recommend any changes commissioners feel are needed to improve operations of the city.
Any changes in the charter must be made by the Legislature.
Under the proposal adopted, no city official who has an elective office for eight or more years may run for that same office in 2017 and in subsequent years, Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie said.
“I think there’s a real advantage to having term limits,” Commissioner Carolyn Axt said. “I think it’s important we enable a real participatory type of government in our city.”
But Commission Chairman Rusty Paul argued the limits weren’t needed. Several Sandy Springs council members have resigned their seats and been replaced during the city’s first five years, he said, so the council has seen too much turnover rather than too little.
“I don’t see a problem with people staying too long [on Sandy Springs City Council],” Paul said. “I see a problem with churn.”
Axt, MacGinnitie and Commissioners Oliver Porter, Jim Squire and Larry Young voted to impose term limits. Paul and Commissioners Josh Belinfante and Robert Shaw voted against the limits.
Current members of Sandy Springs City Council are split over the idea of term limits.
Here’s a sampling of how some council members feel:
It seems a pity to jettison experience. If the public does not feel the experienced officials are worthy, they have a means of voting them out. A possible advantage is to get new blood and possibly innovation into the leadership of the city if incumbents are getting stale. But if they are stale, the public should know it and vote them out.
Mayor Eva Galambos
My basic feeling is that I don’t have a problem, if you remember correctly our intent was that elected officials should be public servants and not professional politicians. I feel that we need to serve for the public good without the political pressure of trying to be re-elected.
District 5 City Councilman Tibby DeJulio
I am in favor of a two-term limit for mayor, but not for City Council positions. This would be in line with what we have at the federal level and state level in Georgia, where the chief executive is subject to term limits, but the legislative body is not. I think a mandatory change at the top is healthy, but I think some institutional knowledge is positive at the legislative level.
It’s also forcing a fix for something that’s not broken. In six years, we’ve already had turnover in three of the six seats, so the need for fresh faces is already being met. If someone wants to keep serving, and their constituents want to keep electing them, I don’t see anything wrong with that.
District 3 Councilman Chip Collins
I think term limits are a bad idea. I’m the tenth council person in five years. We are not lacking for new faces and new ideas on the council. I think it is odd to tell voters it’s up to a majority of your votes, except when it comes to this one person.
District 4 City Councilman Gabe Sterling
A wide and representative pool of citizens willing to lead a community is critical for the continued “health” of responsive, energetic, and — most importantly — balanced leadership in a community. Consider, for example, that most of the sitting council members, including me, drew no opposition [when running for] our second term. … I would have recommended the term limit language become effective with the 2013 election. Term limits are another way get the entrenched out. That is good.
District 6 City Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny