Pinellas County Charter Review rejects term limits

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

Pinellas County commissioners can stay in office as long as voters keep re-electing them. Like, for real this time. The Pinellas County Charter Review committee has rejected an effort led by state Rep. Larry Ahern to impose term limits.

Its members voted Wednesday in favor of removing the issue from further consideration.

Ahern put two measures before the board. Both items would go before voters for approval. The first would ask voters whether all county constitutional officers should be subject to term limits of an unspecified duration. Pinellas’ constitutional officers spoke against that proposal basically arguing that such positions – such as a property appraiser or supervisor of elections – are skill-based positions that should keep a good person in office as long as voters will have them.

Property Appraiser Pam Dubov, Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, and Tax Collector Diane Nelson all opposed imposing term limits on constitutional offices. Dubov included county commissioners in her dissent.

Ahern’s second item included imposing term limits of an unspecified duration to just county commissioners. That measure died for lack of a second.

The issue has been mostly pushed by a group of Tea Party members who argue term limits should be implemented because that is the will of the voters. Voters approved term limits in 1996, but court rulings quashed the limits lifting any limit on how long a county commissioner could serve.

Three of the eight commissioners have been on the board well past the standard eight years other county boards are limited to. Ken Welch was elected in 2000, Karen Seel was appointed in 1999 and then elected in 2000, and John Morroni has been in office since 2005.

Welch spoke against term limits arguing the small group of people pushing for them are the same ones who came out on the losing end of the fluoride debate. His argument was, in a nutshell, that those individuals lost that battle and now instead are trying to unseat commissioners.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.