Term limits in Carefree would eliminate institutional knowledge and reduce voter’s choice

I have been following the recent discussions with regards to the possibility of some individuals circulating a petition to get term limits listed on an upcoming Ballot seeking to re-impose them in Carefree. I consider term limits for Carefree to be a political slight of hand that initially seems to be positive, but upon further thought doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

I favor term limits in situations like elected Federal Government positions and some elected State offices which are highly politically charged and where there are many qualified candidates vying for an office. Neither of these exist in Carefree. In these Federal and State situations, keeping the same people in place for extended time periods does not benefit the voters. In contrast, I think that term limits would be detrimental for a small town with the characteristics of Carefree. Please permit me to explain why I feel this way.

– Let’s start with the reality that it typically takes a full two+ years for a new member of the Town Council to come up to speed on how the whole local government situation functions – before they start to make a significant contribution on their own. Council members carry a large portion of the workload in small towns like Carefree. So, if you were to impose the same term limits in Carefree that were previously imposed (6 years for a Council member), during the first one third of their maximum of three two year terms they would not be making the same contribution as a more experienced Council member. And just as they were reaching their peak performance years they would be termed out.  

Constant turnover and inexperienced people on the Town Council can be a detriment to an effectively performing Carefree Town government. Some projects are just too large and complex to be accomplished during the time span imposed by a six year term limit. 

As an example, it took a full twelve years of actions before the AZ Corporation Commission and the AZ Superior and Supreme Courts to finally secure approval to remove the wastewater treatment plant in Carefree. This would not have been possible had six year term limits been in place. Term limits mandate frequently changing and inexperienced Council members, and limit their efforts to smaller projects. 

– If a Council member (including the Mayor) is not performing at the level demanded by the voters of Carefree, vote them out of office. Plain and simple. That is the real choice for Carefree voters, not arbitrarily eliminating the most experienced Council members through artificial term limits. If you eliminate the experienced people who are volunteering their time and efforts, thus leaving only inexperienced candidates for the Town Council  – or worse yet, only candidates whom the Carefree voters have passed over in the past – as the only choice, the quality of  the people elected to the Carefree Town Council will spiral downward. 

– If you look at the last election in Carefree as an example of what could have happened had term limits been in place, our most experienced Council member, John Crane,  – who received the second highest vote total – would not have been permitted to run for re-election and Carefree would not have had sufficient candidates to fill all of the Council seats. This would have created an opening for a far less qualified candidate to jump into the race at the last second, or the Town Council would have been forced to appoint a Council member for the vacant  seat rather than it being determined by the Carefree voters. 

In my experience, term limits sound appealing at first blush, but for a small town with the characteristics of Carefree, term limits would be detrimental to effective town government. The Town needs the most qualified people available to help direct and manage the Town effectively, not an ever changing parade of new Council members.

Les Peterson