Significant changes to the structure of the Stephenville City Council appear to be on the horizon.
The Charter Review Committee is proposing a number of amendments to the city charter that include reducing the number of city council members from eight to six (not counting the mayor), extending terms from two to three years and introducing term limits.
The term limits would mean that council members would have to take a one-year break after serving two three-year terms.
Rhett Harrison chairs the Charter Review Committee and says the proposed amendments have been in the works for the past two years.
“In 2016 the council had a meeting at the electric coop and that was the birth of this thing,” Harrison explained. “It was at that meeting that we realized we needed to make some changes to the city charter.”
Any changes to the city charter must be decided by voters.
The Charter Review Committee consists of members of the city council’s Nominations Committee - Harrison, Carla Trussell, Alan Nix and Jerry Warren - as well as two citizens - Milam Hefner and Richard Petronis.
Harrison said the amendments did not initially have much support, but that’s changing.
“We expect this to go before the full council for a formal vote in April,” Harrison said.
Councilman Brady Pendleton says he supports the idea of reducing the number of council members, but is undecided about the other changes.
“Eight (council members) is just too many,” Pendleton said. “It’s not effective or efficient in government to have that many people trying to make decisions.”
Harrison said he feels confident the amendments will be placed on the November ballot for voters to decide, something Trussell fully supports.
“I am certainly in favor of citizens having the opportunity to vote on proposed changes,” Trussell said. “I am also in favor of term limits at all levels of government. A city councilman serving 20-plus years is as troubling as a congressman or senator serving an infinite numbers of terms.”
But when it comes to reducing the size of the council, Trussell said she is “ambivalent.”
“I see pros and cons,” she said. “As my first term comes to a close I can certainly say that two years flies by and you’ve just begun to fully understand the workings of city government, so a three-year term might be beneficial for continuity and stability. Ultimately (the decision) is up to the voters as it should be - we serve at their pleasure.”
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