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By Terri Wells
At a recent Groveland City Council meeting, an item came up for discussion that voters who are residents of that city could see on their ballot this November. It involves a proposed charter amendment extending mayor and council member terms from two years to three years.

If the amendment is approved by the voters, Groveland would become the only municipality currently in South Lake County with three-year terms for its mayor and council members. Mayors and council members for all other local municipalities currently serve two-year terms.

"It was brought up during a retreat/goal setting session with council and staff in April," explained Groveland Council Member Dina Sweatt. "This reading on the issue was the first."

It wasn't the first time this issue has been brought up, however. According to Groveland Mayor Tim Loucks, discussions on increasing the lengths of council member terms started three years ago, but were put on the back burner.

City Attorney Anita Geraci-Carver drafted an ordinance with proposed charter language for the council to discuss at its May 16 meeting. As presented at the Council meeting, the proposed ordinance would amend Article III, Section 3.03 entitled "Election and Terms" and Article III, Section 3.04 entitled "Duties of Mayor and Election of Vice-Mayor" to provide for three year terms of office for council members and mayor rather than two year terms of office.

"It will not show up on the ballot as it stands," noted Loucks. "We didn't particularly like the language, so we're going to workshop it, and we're thinking of adding term limits to it."

"It will come up at a council meeting on the first Monday in June," observed Sweatt.

The original draft's proposed language changes call for council seats 1, 3, and 5 to be elected at the general election "in 2016 and every three years thereafter." Seats for District 2 and 4 would be elected at the general election in November 2018 and every three years thereafter.

Furthermore, the draft includes transitional provisions, which state in part that, should this amendment to Groveland's city charter be approved by the voters, the council members elected in November 2016 will serve three-year terms.

While the proposed charter amendment will not show up on the ballot in its current form, it will show up in some form, mentioned Sweatt. "Having council members serve three years instead of two gives them time to learn how things are run and to get their IEMO (Institute for Elected Municipal Officials) classes done, of which there are three," she detailed.

"This way there is no interruption in the performance of the council because of an election. We will have time to accomplish more things," Sweatt expounded.

Three-year terms would also save the city money. According to Loucks, the current system involves holding elections every year. The county pays for a city's elections during presidential election years, but not during other years.

In those "off" years, the city picks up the tab. Loucks estimated that it costs about $4,000 to run a local election, while Sweatt placed the figure at $5,000 to $8,000. With properly staggered three-year terms, the city would need to run elections in an "off" year only once per four-year cycle, thus saving Groveland thousands of dollars.

Groveland plans to add charter amendment to
November ballot extending council terms to 3 years
groveland city council
The Puryear Building, where the Groveland City Council holds its meetings twice a month. The Council plans to add an initiative to the ballot which, if it passes, would extend council member terms to three years from two years. (Photo by Terri Wells)
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