Washington City Council moves toward four-year terms

Published 10:19 pm Monday, May 10, 2021

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The Washington City Council took its first step Monday toward extending the term length for its members from two years to four.

During its May meeting, Council voted 3-1 in favor of William Pitt’s motion to direct city staff to craft a resolution proposing an amendment to the city’s charter to change the term length of all five council members and the mayor to four years. Pitt, Richard Brooks and Mike Renn voted for the motion, and Betsy Kane voted against it. Councilwoman Virginia Finnerty had an excused absence for a personal matter.

Per state law, term length is one part of its charter that a city can amend without action from the General Assembly. To make that change, the city needs to adopt a resolution of intent to consider an ordinance amending the charter. A public hearing would follow that. City Council would then vote on the ordinance amending the charter.

The ordinance will become effective for the next election cycle if it is implemented at least 90 days before that cycle begins.

Two councilmembers have been particularly vocal about their views on the matter. Pitt supports the idea of changing to four-year terms.

“It gives the council more continuity, it gives us more opportunity to get more involved in the community,” Pitt said Monday. “Plus it forces us to work more in the community. … And if this does not work, then there’s nothing saying it cannot be changed back.”

Using other current City Council members as examples, Kane said voters can and will elect candidates to multiple two-year terms if they feel it is right.

“I don’t see that it’s broken at all,” Kane said.

“My thoughts on that, Councilwoman Kane, is the president of the United States serves a four-year term,” Pitt responded. “The governor of the state of North Carolina serves a four-year term. It is my belief that that  is the  direction that we need to go to as a Council.”
“We all saw what happens when a president serves a four-year term,” Kane said. “We all had to live with that for four years.”