Terms changes held until right time
When it comes to term length and limits, Bethlehem is deemed “typical” of most towns within the state, according to the committee.
The town supervisor serves a two-year term while board members serve staggered, four-year terms. The receiver of taxes and two town justices serve four-year terms, while the town clerk and highway superintendent serve for two years. There is no rule on term limits.
Some officials from other towns interviewed said they felt the supervisor should have a term matching that of board members because frequent elections were disruptive to town operations; it promoted cooperation among the board; and residents could then better remember the resolutions enacted under specific institutions. Others felt if the supervisor was going a good job, they would be re-elected so a longer term wasn’t needed and shorter terms would introduce “fresh” ideas from newly elected officials more often.
There were also different views on instituting term limits. Some said they keep out career politicians and give a greater opportunity for more people in the community to serve. Others felt it led to a loss of experience, resulted in a “negative impact on projects that outgoing officials sponsored” and removed popular elected officials from office.
Most Bethlehem Town Board members said they would be willing to discuss changing the terms of elected officials so they were the same length.
Clarkson and Dawson said they would like the discussion to happen in between election cycles so as to be less biased. It was determined the board would revisit the study after the budget was finalized in November.
“None of these things are as important as our budget crisis right now,” said Kotary. “We don’t have a governmental structure crisis.”
Fellow board member Jeffrey Kuhn said he would be willing to hear more from the public on the subject.
“There’s nothing going into the fall that I would be advocating change on,” said Clarkson on all three subjects.