A measure imposing term limits on Douglas County commissioners has qualified for the November ballot, according to the county clerk’s office.
Petitioners turned in enough valid signatures, at least 2,601, to force a vote on whether commissioners should be barred from serving more than two consecutive four-year terms.
The chief petitioner, John Parker, said he and volunteers collected more than 3,000 signatures. Advocates originally hoped to qualify for the May election but fell short by the February deadline. They faced an Aug. 6 deadline for the fall election.
“I’m excited for it. It’s been a long six months,” Parker said Tuesday.
If the measure passes, Douglas County would become the second Oregon county with term limits. Multnomah County has limited its county officials to two terms since 1985.
Commissioner Susan Morgan noted the irony of the measure qualifying for the ballot the same week as longtime Commissioner Doug Robertson will step down. Robertson was elected to the office nine times and served 33 years.
Morgan said commissioners who serve more than two terms hold valuable “institutional knowledge” and that voters should consider whether they want to give that up.
“My sincere hope is they will take the time to take a closer look at how it’s been implemented in other jurisdictions and the impact that it has on the voters losing control of the election process,” she said.
Morgan is in her second term and has said she would like to serve as long as voters wish. Commissioner Joe Laurance will step down at the end of the year, so he won’t be affected by the measure.
Commissioner-elect Tim Freeman, who will replace Laurance in January, said he’s not taking a position for or against term limits, but said he believes the measure is “poorly worded.” He said a conversation with county counsel convinced him the measure as written would not apply to him or to Morgan because they were elected before it would take effect.
“I think the voters will ultimately decide whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea,” he said.
However, he said it may not be a good idea to create lame duck commissioners who might be less likely to consider the impact of their decisions when they can’t seek re-election.
Five men have so far announced they will run for Robertson’s seat. Candidates have until Aug. 26 to file.
Parker, a disabled Air Force veteran, said he has no intention of running for office. He said he wants voters to talk about whether it’s a good idea to allow commissioners to remain in office for long periods of time. He said lengthy service can breed corruption and make commissioners less responsive to voters.
“I think Douglas County’s going to benefit from not having somebody in there that keeps repeating and repeating the same things,” he said.
He stood outside the post office in downtown Roseburg to collect signatures for his cause, attended events like the Spring Fair in Roseburg and a knife and gun show and approached people in parks, he said.
He said he believes voters will approve the measure and that he rejects the argument that term limits take away voter control.
“The same argument could be made for the governor or the president or the commissioners in Multnomah County,” he said.
“I think it’s going to make the process fairer for those who wish to become contenders to the seat,” he said.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.