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Term limits still on for commissioners

Veronica Whitney

Because term limits were still in effect Tuesday, four county officials, including Johnson, who has been re-elected six times since 1982, couldn’t run for office again.

After 24 years as Eagle County Coroner, Donna Barnes, will be leaving office, joining County Surveyor James Kunkel. County Clerk and Recorder Sara Fisher is headed out after 10 years.

“This is the first time that term limits have affected Eagle County elected officials,” Fisher says.

As of Tuesday, that won’t happen again.

Eagle County voters passed six referendums repealing term limits for county elected officials including: assessor, clerk and recorder, coroner, sheriff, surveyor and treasurer.

“I knew it was going to happen eventually,” Johnson says. “I don’t think we need term-limitation.”

Voters, however, decided with a 52 percent vote that county commissioners’ terms in office should be kept limited to two.

“We expected it,” says Commissioner Arn Menconi, “because elected representatives don’t fare well extending term limits.”

Commissioner Tom Stone, who was re-elected Tuesday, says he wouldn’t run for a third term.

“It was a close vote,” he says. “I think people want to have an opportunity to change policy makers.”

Stone, however, says the community loses when they get a good leader and they can’t re-elect them.

“I believe general consensus is, just as in the statewide basis, that policy-makers shouldn’t be career politicians,” Fisher says. “The danger is that people get re-elected through name recognition alone.”

Michael Gallagher, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, says most likely they’ll bring the question back to the voters.

Eagle County voters initially opposed term limits when they were placed on the statewide ballot in 1994. However, the question, ultimately approved by Colorado voters, allowed for local jurisdictions to do away without term limits.

Four years later, county voters rejected a referendum question seeking to overturn term limits for all the county’s elected offices, from surveyor to commissioner.

“It failed because county commissioners were part of the mix,” Fisher says. “Put policy makers with administrative workers and the outcome is inevitable.”

This year’s ballot contained separate questions for each office, so voters could choose where they wanted to keep term limits.

Still, Fisher says, the question should have been posted to the voters before people were forced out of the office.

“The only thing that frustrates me is that (the commissioners) should have let voters make the determination before these four positions were affected,” she says. “They made that determination for the voters.”

Menconi said he tried to post the question last year but he couldn’t get support.

Stone says term-limit questions were placed on the ballot this year so voters could consider the office without having to worry about the incumbent in charge of it.

“It wouldn’t be fair for the citizens to vote on personalities,” he says. “Everybody knew which positions were up because of the term limits. We wanted people to vote the concept of term limits and not the candidate.”

Sheriff Johnson says the measure will help attract more people to those official positions.

“Term limitation affects these jobs,” he says. “I’m glad they’re over. If you enter office now you don’t have to think, “In some years, I’ll be looking for a job’.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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