Arlington Voters Overwhelmingly Approve City Council Term Limits; Mayor, Measure Supporters React

From the moment he began collecting signatures, there was never any doubt in Arlington resident Zack Maxwell's mind -- he would place a measure on the November ballot asking voters to set term limits for the Mayor and City Council. And it would pass.

But as he watched the returns come in on election night, he admits that even he was surprised by how wide the margin of victory was -- a full 26 points.

"We think that it's a statement from the citizens to our City Council that we're not pleased with the direction that our city is going," said Maxwell. "I can only hope that statement was received loud and clear."

Moving forward, the mayor and council members will now be limited to three two-year terms, serving no more than six years on the Council.

The measure is retroactive -- meaning any longtime council members will be forced to give up their seats once their current terms are finished.

That will affect five council members -- Sheri Capehart, Kathryn Wilemon, Robert Shepard, Michael Glaspie, and Lana Wolff.

"We'll be losing a lot of experience off our council," said Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams.

Williams, council members, and area business organizations like the Arlington Chamber of Commerce came out hard against the measure, calling it "extreme." They argued that a revolving door of council members every few years would create instability in city leadership and direction, sending the wrong message to community members and businesses looking to invest there.

Along the way, they tried to push for less restrictive term limits -- even pressing forward with plans for a "term limits committee" that would discuss and look into different options.

But ultimately, they fell short.

"It is disappointing," said Williams, who is currently serving his second term as Mayor. "But the popularity of term limits is definitely there."

Maxwell and other supporters of the measure -- including local police and firefighters associations, as well as the Arlington chapter of the NAACP -- dismissed opponents' concerns as "doom and gloom" and said citizens are excited about the prospect of fresh leadership. They note that several of the current council members have held their seats for 15+ years.

"If there's one thing I've learned in this whole campaign, it's that there are plenty of capable and qualified people ready to step up and lead this city, on both sides of this issue," said Maxwell. "So Arlington is going to be just fine."

Williams would not throw out the possibility of revisiting term limits down the road, saying he "absolutely hopes" there will be future discussions about how they can improve upon the new rules.

But in the short-term, he said he and the council will spend the rest of their terms doing what they think is right for Arlington.

"Our city is known as a can-do city,' said Williams. "The spirit of our people is phenomenal. So we'll work through this and figure out a way to keep our progress moving."

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