Loudon City Council discussed at a Nov. 9 workshop the possibility of staggering election cycles.
Jeff Harris, mayor, said the change first came up a few years ago during strategic planning but never happened. After speaking with Angie Carrier, Municipal Technical Advisory Service municipal management and finance program manager, Harris presented council with a couple options on how to move forward.
“(Carrier’s) suggestion, which would be 2022 — none of this affects current terms of any elected official,” Harris said. “Now, 2022, in order to get the staggered terms, council members would run, mayor would run. Top two vote getters in council would get a four-year term, bottom two vote getters would get a two-year term. Then that would be staggered, and you’d always have a mayor and two council members that have experience. Every two years you’d have an election.”
Council would first vote on a resolution to change the city’s charter before state Rep. Lowell Russell, R-Vonore, would present the measure for vote in Nashville.
Councilwoman Tammi Bivens thinks the change is a good idea.
“I don’t see how it could gain you a lot,” Johnny James, councilman, said. “… Can people get elected again? Well, if they get elected again, what are you going to do? Will they have to do two years again or four years? … I fail to see how it can make a great change. … You still have an election. You still need the popular vote. That’s what it’s going to be. What’s to say when you have another election that it won’t turn out exactly the same way in two years? That’s what I don’t understand.”
Harris said only the first election will be different with two people winning two-year terms.
“I mean, right now you can have five new people up here that’s never been in office before,” he said. “If you put in this two-year stagger — 2022 is the only time it can be a two-year term — then it’s all four years after that. But you have two years experienced people in there, at least three, that know what’s going on.”
Councilman Tim Brewster said when he, Bivens and Councilman Tim Dixon were elected, they turned to James for guidance since he had served previous terms.
Brewster suggested instead of the two candidates with least amount of votes getting a two-year term, it should be the first- and third-place or second- and fourth-place candidates “to make it more fair.”
Dixon couldn’t see “how that would be right.”
Ty Ross, city manager, suggested taking the matter to Municipal Technical Advisory Service for more suggestions.
“I just think it’ll cause mass confusion because the voters can’t understand what’s going on,” James said. “You know, you’re not here to explain it to them. I can remember when something was done like this a few years back in Loudon. People were up for election in June … and they went to the state and got a charter change that would extend their term for two more years. … The public didn’t like it. I remember it all too well. I think you better ask the public before you’re going to do it. I don’t think it’s up to us. We’re here to serve the people, not ourselves.”
Bivens initially asked for the matter to appear on the Nov. 23 meeting agenda, but council agreed for more discussion and input from MTAS at the Dec. 14 workshop.