Columbus wants to hear from the public on four-year terms

Published 11:48 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2018

COLUMBUS-The Town of Columbus is still thinking about changing its charter to elect council members and the mayor to four-year staggered terms and is now considering whether to hold a public hearing on the subject or to hold a referendum.

Columbus Town Council discussed the possibility of having four-year staggered terms during its Jan. 18 meeting.

Resident Pat McCool said during public comments he is against the town changing to four-year terms.

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McCool said the way the town is currently set up, it gives the residents an opportunity to switch the board every two years. With four-year staggered terms, residents would only be able to vote a majority out every four years, McCool said. He also said the state Senate and House has to run every two years. McCool said he doesn’t have a problem with any of the five elected members in Columbus now but he doesn’t want to get to a point where the town has three people on the board running the town and residents can’t do anything about it for four years.

Currently, the Columbus Mayor has to run every two years and the high vote getter for council gets a four-year term and the remaining winners receive two-year terms.

Councilman Mark Phillips first brought the idea of Columbus council and mayor receiving four-year staggered terms a few months ago. Phillips said there is potential for an 80 percent turnover of elected officials every two years. He asked town manager Tim Barth if having a turnover every two years made him nervous. Barth answered yes.

Phillips has talked of the learning curve it takes for a new elected official, saying it took him a year to learn things and then he had to think about a new election.

Phillips said he’s thinking about the employees, in that every two years the way the current town charter works there could be an 80 percent turnover in bosses and he wouldn’t work for a company like that.

“I’m not looking to protect the five of us,” Phillips said. “I’m looking at the running of the town.”

Councilman Richard Hall said he thought four-year terms was a good idea until he talked to McCool. He suggested putting it up for a referendum.

Mayor Eric McIntyre said the town needs to hear from the people. He said McCool made a very good point, but four-year terms protects the continuity of the town, so there are valid points on each side.

Phillips said McCool called him and said the state house of representatives have two-year terms and he responded, “maybe that’s why nothing gets accomplished.”

The next election this November is a county and state election and could be difficult to have a referendum for Columbus because the Columbus precincts are not just for Town of Columbus residents, according to Barth.

Council decided to discuss holding a public hearing on the issue in the future. Columbus meets again on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. at town hall.