Longer terms eyed

Published 8:55 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Pike County Commissioners discussed Monday making a move to keep elected officials at the commission table an extra two years.

Though no official action was taken, the commission may work toward increasing its term limits from four years to six years beginning with the 2012 election.

This is an issue County Administrator Harry Sanders said has been in discussion for years, but it was never formally introduced in a meeting until Monday night.

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“It probably has been talked about unofficially for a while, but it was approached in an official meeting for the first time Monday night,” Sanders said. District 5 Commissioner Charlie Harris, who introduced the idea, said his motive is simply to save money in Pike County.

“It would save the county money in election years,” Harris said.

Commission Chairman Homer Wright seconded Harris. “The longer your term, the less money the county has to spend,” Wright said. “We pay a bunch of money for reelection on advertising and for poll workers.”

Wright, who supports increasing term limits, said he believes the commission appears to be in favor.

“The ones I’ve talked to are for it. When it comes down to it, you don’t know what they might do, but I support it,” he said.

Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, said changing the terms would require a local bill in the state Legislature.

Since this Legislative session is coming to an end, this would be a move Pike County would have to make in the next legislative session, which begins after the start of 2012. If passed, it would mean the commissioners elected in November 2012 would serve for six years instead of four.

Brasfield said the majority of county commissioners in Alabama are on four-year terms.

Barbour, Perry and Morgan counties are exceptions. Another exception is that in some counties, probate judges, who serve six-year terms, act as the commission chairman. Brasfield said this accounts for about 20 counties in Alabama.

For context, Pike County’s other elected officials, with the exception of the sheriff who has a four-year term, all serve six-year terms. The offices of the Circuit Clerk, Probate Judge, Revenue Commissioner and Pike County School Board members are elected every six years but on staggered terms.

Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy, said in order for this to pass, the commission would have to unanimously vote in support of increasing term limits. Then, once a local bill is drafted, it would be up to he and Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, to take the next steps.

Boothe said he isn’t sure if this change would require a referendum in Pike County or simply a majority approval in the Legislature.