Mt. CB looks to change term limits

Reserving space on November’s ballot

By Kendra Walker

In the hopes of encouraging more people to run for town council and widening the pool of qualified and applicable candidates, the Mt. Crested Butte council is looking to make a change to the town’s council term limits. What that change will be is still to be determined, and whether a change will occur will ultimately be decided on by voters this November. 

Currently, the town of Mt. Crested Butte’s charter provides that a person is not eligible to run for council if he or she has served two consecutive four-year terms. However, the Colorado Constitution permits municipal voters to “lengthen, shorten, or eliminate” limitations on terms of office. The town has not had a competitive council election since 2008 and since then, council members have been appointed because there were never more candidates than seats to be filled. In an effort to widen the candidate pool, the town asked voters in 2021 to eliminate the term limit restriction entirely. 

However, that ballot issue did not pass and the council is now considering other options to change the town charter regarding term limits. During their May 3 meeting, the council adopted a motion to inform the County Clerk and Recorder that Mt. Crested Butte would like to reserve room for a ballot question on November’s election. 

During the May 16 meeting, the council was somewhat split between two options presented by town staff. The first option would be to retain the present consecutive two term limitation and amend the charter to expressly permit a candidate for office to be eligible for election again after being out of office for one full election cycle of two years. In other words, a council member could serve eight years, take two years off, come back and serve eight years, take two years off and so on. The second option would be to amend the charter to increase the limit to three consecutive terms rather than two, allowing a council member to serve for 12 years.  

“I like [option 2] because it seems like it would allow people in this room that are term-limited to run again and also bring in past council members, the people we’re trying to attract,” said mayor Nicholas Kempin. “[Option 1] only gets us those previous folks but wouldn’t allow anyone in this room to run again. If you don’t have enough people to run, you don’t want limits. The purpose of this was to get more candidates,” said Kempin.

“Option 1 allows more people to run,” said council member Steve Morris.

“This is going to voters, and I think [option 1] has more power to voters than [option 2], especially after what happened with the last election,” said council member Michael Bacani. 

“I think having stepped down for a couple years and coming back brings you a better perspective than staying on too long,” said council member Janet Farmer, in favor of option 1. 

“[Option 1] still increases participation. As soon as people hit their third term (in option 2), then they’re off again and we’re back to the same problem,” said council member Alec Lindeman. 

Town attorney Gerald Dahl noted that option 1 is a common approach among municipalities. “That’s actually the default rule of the Constitution if the municipality does not have a rule,” he said.

“I’m trying to get more than seven people at one time to want to be in this room,” said council member Roman Kolodziej. “I’d be curious to meld the two, maybe serve three consecutive terms and then take two years off. I’m for something that extends terms and brings in a break timeframe. With how long it takes to onboard with this position and the knowledge and time and effort, it sucks to lose that knowledge.”

“I’m not 100% inclined to any of the options as presented,” said Kempin. I think I’d like to personally do more work on it. Maybe we can combine some of the ideas in there, but I’m not 100% behind any of the options.”

Farmer made a motion to go with the first option to allow a two-year break in between two consecutive terms. The council voted 5-2 against, with Farmer and Bacani voting in favor. The council asked staff to look at ways to combine the two options and look at other town charters for other ideas. Dahl plans to bring a drafted term limit ordinance to the June 20 meeting for council’s review. Specific ballot question language is due in August.

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