The Glenarden City Council voted Monday to adopt stricter term limits for the city’s mayor, despite critics’ claim that the measure was not adequately vetted by residents.
The legislation, which passed in a 4-to-2 vote with one member abstaining, will extend the mayoral term from two years to four years, but will limit mayors to two terms. Prior to the measure, mayors could only be elected to three consecutive two-year terms; however, they could run for the office again after sitting out the following term.
A measure that would have extended council terms from two years to four years without term limits was voted down Monday in a 5-2 vote.
Councilman James A. Herring (Ward 1), a supporter of the mayoral term changes, said the change in term structure will allow mayors to be more effective.
“One of the problems with the two-year term is you spend the first year or two learning the job,” Herring said. “So you won’t really be able to get involved until your second year, and at that point you have to start campaigning again.”
The new term limits mean that the only living three-term mayors, Mayor Gail Parker Carter, who is in her third consecutive term in office, and former mayor Don Juan Williams, who served as mayor from 1995 through 2001 and lost to Carter in the May 2011 election, cannot run for mayor in the city again.
Opponents of the measure said the council has not received enough resident feedback on the measure and that it is already difficult to find residents who want to run for elected office. At-large Councilwoman Maxine Phifer, who abstained from Monday’s vote, said the council shouldn’t remove potentially interested candidates — referring to Carter and Williams — from eligibility for the office of the mayor.
“Once passed, these two people can never run again,” Phifer said. “But to vote for them, this is our right. We shouldn’t take away people’s rights.”
“Because these resolutions change the spirit of the city charter, we need to have some public meetings to hear what the citizens have to say,” Phifer said. “We have had no public meetings [dedicated to the measure] to get a fair and accurate account of what the citizens want.”
Councilwoman Jennifer Jenkins (Ward 3) asked supporters of the new term limits about the public’s input.
“How many citizens did you contact and gave you the opinion that they supported it?” Jenkins asked Council Vice President Carolyn Smallwood (Ward 2) and Councilwoman Celestine Wilson (At large).
“I didn’t count, but I talked to quite a few,” Smallwood responded.
Smallwood said council members opposing the legislation have had ample time since the issue was first raised in September to find residents to oppose the measure in hearings or send it to referendum.
Carter said she is supportive of the measure, despite it prohibiting her from running for mayor again.
“Whatever the council wants is fine with me, since I’m already termed out,” Carter said. “[Four-year terms] will definitely be a benefit for the new administration coming in to get their programs in place.”
Jenkins said Tuesday that she plans to gather signatures from residents to petition to repeal the measure and put it to referendum in the May municipal elections.