This November, Prince George’s County voters will have the opportunity to decide whether council members and the county executive should be allowed to serve more than two consecutive terms in office. The ballot referendum has stirred a heated debate amongst residents and community leaders, months in advance of voting day.
The current law restricts elected to two consecutive four years terms. “Many residents are not in favor of the term limit,” said Angela Holmes, president and community developer for Citizens Encouraging Community Revitalization, at a council meeting. Holmes echoes what many county residents feel is a longer term for unfocused and unrivaled incumbents.
Peggy Nicholas, a retired teacher in the county public schools, believes longer terms do not necessarily mean big improvements. “It takes two years to get programs off the ground in the school system,” stated Nicholas. “I only support longer terms if it means longer attention spans.”
However, there is just as much support for longer terms. “Twelve years service will allow special interests to gain even more influence in our politics,” stated Dr. James Dula, president and CEO of the South County Economic Development Association, (SCEDA).
“That’s a career, and I don’t think that’s what we are meant to do here,” stated county council member Mary Lehman who disagrees that term limits should be done away with completely.
Prince George’s County is the only jurisdiction in the area with term limits. Montgomery County voters rejected imposing term limits in 2000. “With all of the corruption this county has endured with certain county officials being taken away in handcuffs, longer terms is not what should be on the table,” stated Landover resident Jocelyn Bishop.
Voters decided to limit terms in 1992 and 2000, whether it was based on mistrust of the political scene or what many think is a revolving door of the same faces, many residents, such as Bishop, voted based on the abysmal records of some county officials. “Losing good elected officials is worth it if it keeps bad ones from overstaying their welcome,” continued Bishop.
Online forums and comment sections also showed opposition toward longer terms for county officials.