The York County Council could take up a measure next month to call a referendum on extending Council terms from two years to four.
We think that’s a good idea.
Municipal councils in Fort Mill, Tega Cay and Rock Hill all have staggered four-year terms and passed resolutions urging the county council to give voters a chance to make the change. All seven York County Council terms expire this year. If a referendum is added to this November’s ballot and voters approve the change, it would not affect those elected this year.
Four-year terms make sense for several reasons. Chief among them is the time it takes for members, who are part-time legislators, to immerse themselves in the variety of often complex issues Council faces. Voters presumably want their elected representatives to build good working relationships not only with their fellow council members, but with department heads, key front line workers and with members of the other municipal councils.
Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols last week cited the belief shared by a majority of York County mayors that “You need some continuity among elected officials to be sure you’re going in the right direction.” We agree.
Tega Cay Mayor George Sheppard said any progress in planning between his city and the county could be set back if there’s frequent turnover on the county level. He estimates it takes new council members six to eight months to become acclimated and most of the rest of a two-year term getting ready to run for the next one. Four-year terms would give everyone involved more breathing room and enhance the chances of joint planning to take root.
His counterpart in Fort Mill, Mayor Guynn Savage, said elected officials need to decompress after campaigning and in a two-year cycle, there’s precious little time to do that and tackle a comprehensive agenda.
There’s another good reason to make the change: The way we see it, four-year terms could encourage eager, but less-experienced residents to run for office. Knowing they would be afforded time to learn on the job, those with good ideas and a willingness to serve won’t be intimidated by the thought that they have to become fluent in all the issues overnight.
We’ve said before how important it is for local municipalities and the county to work together. Aligning terms, if a majority of county voters see the wisdom in it, could go a long way in making that a standard practice.