Voters to decide on term limits for Re-1 board
On Nov. 5, the public will vote whether term limit restrictions should continue for Roaring Fork School District Re-1’s board members.
Currently, school board members may serve two terms – at four years per term, a total of eight years – before stepping down.
Term limits are set in the Colorado Constitution for elected officials at the congressional, state and local government levels. According to Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Mildred Alsdorf, in 1998, the county removed term limits for county elected officials. However, each entity within the county – be it fire department, town, city or school district – must put the question to voters before a change can take place.
Roaring Fork School District Board President Robin Garvik understands why term limits were initially created.
“They can be a good way to break up political power,” she said. “Politicians with huge war chests can keep political dynasties going. By creating term limits, someone else can be assured of running for office.”
But Garvik said term limits aren’t appropriate in the case of school board members.
“We’re public service volunteers with no party affiliations,” she said. “We’re not backed by any party, be it Republican, Democrat or Independent.”
Garvik also said that placing term limits on board members can create situations where no one is available to fill board seats.
“We had two seats open on the board last election, and no one ran,” she said. “After the election, the school board appointed a highly qualified candidate (Peter Delaney) to serve. Even though we have a valuable person on the board as a result, I don’t think that it’s in the best interest of democracy. Board members should be elected, not appointed.”
Tresi Houpt, who’s served nearly two terms on the Roaring Fork School District board, agrees.
“It’s very important to let the election process occur naturally,” she said. “Voting should determine natural term limits.”
Houpt also reiterated what Garvik said about the last election.
“Two years ago, (Roaring Fork board member) Bruce Matherly was also up for re-election and would have stepped aside had someone come forward to serve in his director district,” she explained. As it was, since no one else ran, Matherly stayed on the board for another term. However, if he had already served his two terms, he wouldn’t have been able to continue his work on the board.
Because of these circumstances, Garvik believes it makes sense to eliminate term limits.
“My personal stand is to repeal limits for school board members,” she said. “These aren’t politically held offices, and we serve on this board without pay and from the goodness of our hearts.”
Alsdorf said that she knows that some citizens want to keep term limits as they are. However, she adds there’s another way to approach the question of who sits on the school board.
“Some people think school board members shouldn’t run for more than two terms,” she said. “There’s an alternative to that. Find somebody you want to run and vote for them. Get another candidate. That’s the way to do it.”
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