Milford City Councilman Dirk Gleysteen opened a debate at Monday’s city council meeting when he proposed that the number of terms that members of the planning commission and the city council serve be limited.
Gleysteen proposed that members of the planning commission be allowed to serve three three-year terms, which could be consecutive or non-consecutive. As it stands now, the ordinance regarding terms for the planning commission simply states that members will be appointed by city council and serve a three-year term.
“We continue to need an influx of new ideas and that is best supported by a lot of active participation in city government,” Gleysteen said. “I think the best time to make a change is when things are going well. I think things are certainly going well.”
Many members of council expressed that they didn’t feel that term limits were necessary.
“My feeling is if it’s not broke don’t fix it,” said Councilman Douglas Morrow Sr. “Sometimes we have had problems getting volunteers to serve on the planning commission and I’d hate to see us put a cap on it.”
Councilman Owen Brooks Jr. was also vocally against the proposed change.
“If you’ve got somebody that’s qualified, that wants to do that job, why kick him off there and when you find somebody to take his place you have to train them all over again,” he said. “If the person’s doing a good job on there, as far as I’m concerned, they should stay there.”
Milford City Manager Richard Carmean explained to council that if council decided to change the term limits of planning commission members an ordinance change would be required.
Gleysteen also proposed that city council members and the mayor be limited to eight years of service. The only restriction currently placed on the mayor and council is that they serve two-year terms.
Gleysteen cited a concern that new businesses and residents could find city government inaccessible.
“Perception is important, and if those people and businesses we want to attract wish to participate in city government the door should be open to those interested,” Gleysteen said. “Many may see the door as only partially open when they see councilmen and a mayor currently serving with up to 30 years of service. We don’t want to seem like a good old boys network.”
Brooks, who has been serving on city council as long as the mayor, made it clear that he wouldn’t lose his seat without a fight.
Page 2 of 2 - “I don’t want somebody just walking in here and taking a seat because I’m gone,” said Brooks. “My seat’s right here and if anybody wants it they can come and get it, but they’re going to have to beat me on the floor.”
Brooks said it’s up to the residents to decide who stays and who goes.
“We have term limits. They’re two years,” he said. “The people will either vote you in or vote you out.”
Gleysteen voiced a concern that Milford could suffer if council members get too comfortable.
“You don’t have to look far to find other towns who have long-term sitting councilmen and mayors that seem to be stuck in the past,” Gleysteen said. “The way that I look at it the first eight years you’re making a name for the city, after that you’re making a name for yourself.”
City Solicitor David Rutt informed the council that enacting the type of change that Gleysteen proposed would require a change in the city’s charter.
This would require either having a resolution regarding the matter approved by the city council by a three-quarters majority, which would total six affirmative votes followed by an election process. If it passed in an election, it would then pass on to the Delaware General Assembly for review and approval. The other option would be to acquire a petition signed by 10 percent of all eligible voters of Milford, which would then establish a charter commission. Seven people would have to be elected to the charter commission through a general election. If the commission proposed a charter amendment, the proposal would be brought to an election and then voted on by the General Assembly, Rutt said.
Discussion of the topic ended abruptly when council members learned what would be involved in making a change of this type.
“It’s obvious that there’s not an interest in doing this,” Gleysteen said. “I just suggest we drop it for now.”