A public hearing prior to the unanimous vote drew comments from five citizens. County Administrator Gary Larrowe explained that the ordinance would result in biennial (every two years) elections consistent with Virginia law following the 2011 general election. Following the 2011 election, the electoral board would then choose by random drawing three of the elected members of the board to serve for terms of two years, and for three of the elected members to serve for terms of four teams. After the November 2011 election, all successful candidates would be elected to terms of four years. Larrowe said the ordinance may also affect the terms of office for members of the Carroll County School Board.
Citizen Ray Melton was the first to speak during the public hearing. He said hes been coming to board meeting for the last 15 years.
Everybody being elected at the same time seems to be a good idea the way I look at it, Melton said. Ive seen all the boards, the last board we had could have used staggered terms, but most of them could get along pretty good.
Speaking as Chairman of the Carroll County Republican Committee, Carolyn Honeycutt said staggered terms would pose a problem for her party. Honeycutt said the Carroll Republican Party runs a preferential primary every four years for its local candidates.
I wanted to go on record to say it is a problem for us. Its been tradition that we do this. In fact, after polling a number of elderly in our group, nobody seems to remember when we first began this, but the Republican Primary has been a tradition in Carroll County, Honeycutt said. It has been a tradition for our party, it has worked well for us and I feel it has worked well for the citizens of Carroll County.
Honeycutt said the Republican Committee spends thousands of dollars running the primary every four years. It spends money to put workers at the polls on Primary Day, while candidates spend money advertising with local newspapers, radio stations, and literature that gives citizens the opportunity to know the candidates. All that money goes toward the local economy, she said.
Most importantly, Honeycutt said the Republican party would like continue to the primary process because it serves the party well.
I understand and could see that staggered terms have merit, she said. I just wanted to point out a few things that I would like you to remember when you are making this decision.
Number one, local government is the closest government to the citizens, Honeycutt said. While the president, congressmen and U.S. Senators are not easily accessible to citizens because of security, locally elected officials live in the community they represent.
People come knock on your door, they can call you up, they see you in the grocery store. Youre there, she said. We are all part of the same community, so what better way for the people of Carroll County to choose candidates then through a primary?
Whether it is a caucus or mass meeting for the Republican or Democratic Party, a few hundred people is considered a good crowd, she said. But thousands of people turn out to vote on Primary Day.
You have thousands of people deciding who those candidates are. Going to the ballot box is how we practice our democracy, Honeycutt said. So start practicing the democracy when it is time to choose the candidates. What better way?
Honeycutt reiterated that staggered terms leaves the Republican Party with a problem.
We would have potentially three board of supervisors candidates running in what I am calling a mid-term election. I dont know how we could do it, she said. Number one, we could not afford to do it. We would spend thousands of dollars every two years. We barely are able to spend thousands of dollars every four years. I understand that there are some people that think staggered terms are the way to go because of the continuity and things of those sort, but lets remember that we are a democracy. We are democracy and people speak at the ballot box and people have a choice.
Citizen Patricia Sebens, who served eight years on the Carroll County School Board, spoke in favor of staggered terms. A board is not always able to act on the things it deems important over a four-year period, she said.
I come to speak in support of staggered terms, partly because of the continuity, partly because of the importance of having informed leaders in our community that can learn from one another and can take the input from the folks who are experienced, Sebens said.
For board members that just took office in January, it is important to have experienced leadership as you go through the budget process and other important issues, she said.
With the leadership you have in the administrative office, of course you have that, as well as with the leadership you have in terms of a member (David Hutchins) who is returning, Sebens said. But if you had the alternating of three representatives and three representatives you would have the availability of that knowledge of the last four years.
Even the one returning board member (Hutchins) was appointed and served roughly 18 months, Sebens said.
So I would urge you to carefully consider the work that you do here as a board and the work thats done by the school board as you look at staggered terms. The staggering of terms might change some things in terms of the way folks campaign and the way that theyre chosen, it might not, she said. There might be a way to continue the traditions that have happened before. But I would urge you to think about your own experience as you have come on to this board, about your responsibility to the citizens of Carroll, and to consider staggered terms. We have mid-term elections that are already in place. Its not the adding of an additional election.
Janet Tate, who ran for Laurel Fork District Supervisor last fall, recalled how all supervisor candidates supported staggered terms during a forum held by the Farm Bureau prior to the 2007 election.
It just makes sense. In business and any board, you just dont turn over. The chances we have now to turn over a whole school board and a whole board of supervisors, its not the way to run a business. It just doesnt make sense for a community, Tate said. Everyone I ever talked to supported staggered terms. I didnt do research of the surrounding areas, but I can think of one other that I have ever heard of that doesnt have staggered terms.
Citizen Wayne Kenny agreed with Tate and Sebens.
I think staggered terms are what we need, Kenny said. When you look at the board, it is five new faces. Even Mr. (Sam) Dickson has been on the board before, but its been awhile.
Dickson added you get behind in four years. Six new faces would not be a good thing for the Carroll Board of Supervisors, Kenny said.
Pipers Gap Supervisor Dr. Tom Littrell then made a motion to adopt the staggered term ordinance, which Pine Creek Supervisor Wes Hurst seconded.
When you have a possibility that the whole group could go out and a whole fresh group start over like this time, its good to a point to have a fresh beginning, but also as board members that are new, we are relying on the experience of the other people, Hurst said. There is a lot to do, following proper procedure and legal aspects, so I feel like that in the long-term for the general public of the county, it is much better for us to be on staggered terms.Hutchins said Honeycutts concerns were true, but citizens let supervisor candidates know last fall they didnt want a complete board turnover each election.
You lose continuity, and I realize that within the Republican Party it does create an issue for our county because of the history. But I think this is one of those situations where you have to look at what is best for the county and not whats best for one group, Hutchins said. I said last year special interest groups were part of the problem, I think, this board had. We need to look at what is best for the county. I said at that forum, Yes, I supported it, and I do because I believe it is good for the county. But I also believe that the (Republican) Party will find a way to make it just as vital.
Littrell said he understood Honeycutts reluctance to embrace staggered terms, but he thought Carroll County would have a better government with staggered terms. Laurel Fork District Supervisor Andy Jackson agreed.
During the campaign, one of the major things that came out was if there are six new (board members), what do we do? And now that I have got on the board and there is five (new members), I am beginning to wonder what you do, too, Jackson said. It takes a while to get your feet wet and learn the procedures and ins and outs of what you can do legally and what your authority to do is, so I think it would be better for all of us in the end.
Dickson said he campaigned for staggered terms and would stick with what he said at that time. Littrells motion to adopt the staggered term ordinance then passed unanimously.