Commissioners debate staggered terms

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 10, 2005

WOODLAND – More than a decade ago, the voters of Woodland decided to change town boards.

During that election in 1991, the entire town board and mayor were defeated and new officials were chosen.

The aftermath lingers 14 years later and is part of the reason the Board is considering making sure that never happens again.

Mayor Margaret Burgwyn said during Thursday night’s meeting of the Woodland Board of Commissioners she had requested Town Clerk Gail Colson to prepare information related to staggered four-year terms for mayor and commissioners.

&uot;There are definite pros and cons,&uot; she said. &uot;It was not easy when we were elected and all the former board members were defeated. It would have been nice to have had some transition.&uot;

Burgwyn said the town board had discussed staggered terms for the better part of 14 years, but never took the steps necessary to complete the process. She said reading in the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald about the Town of Aulander taking steps to provide staggered terms made her decide to bring up the idea.

&uot;It sounds like a good idea to me,&uot; Commissioner Beth Phillips said.

Burgwyn said the town board members could not grant the terms to themselves, but the ordinance, if adopted, would cover the November election. It would allow for the highest vote-getters to receive four-year terms and the next two to receive two-year terms. A decision would have to be made regarding the mayor’s term. Currently, both mayor and commissioners are elected every two years.

Commissioner Les Clark asked what the negatives would be if the Board chose to follow the staggered terms.

&uot;Well, the town couldn’t clean house if they wanted to; that could possibly be a negative,&uot; Burgwyn said. &uot;Also, four-year terms could be a negative.&uot;

Clark said he knew sometimes people had difficulty committing two years on a board of government and he understood getting a four-year commitment could be even more difficult.

He also asked what would be the course of action if a board member resigned and Burgwyn said the ordinance would cover that situation.

Commissioner David Cooper said he believed it was a good idea to have Town Attorney Charles Vaughan look at the ordinance and provide direction.

Clark made a motion to have the staggered terms added to the agenda of next week’s budget workshop and Cooper offered a second. The motion passed without objection in the absence of Commissioner Thomasena Boone who left before the board meeting because of illness. That work session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 12.