Grand County considers term limits for elected officials
Some of Grand County’s elected officials don’t seem keen to bring a question to voters on reintroducing term limits.
Colorado passed a measure back in 1994 that established term limits for all local elected officials, though local governments were able to ask voters for an exemption. Grand asked voters to remove term limits for all elected officials in 1996, but the question failed.
In 1998, Grand asked separate ballot questions for each elected office, and voters removed term limits for only the coroner. The county came back with question about removing term limits for individual offices in 2000 — except for coroner and county commissioners — and voters approved repealing term limits for the assessor, clerk and recorder, sheriff, treasurer and surveyor.
In 2002, Grand County asked once again to remove term limits for commissioners. This time it passed, though voters chose to reinstate a limit of three four-year terms for commissioners in 2016.
At Tuesday’s meeting, county commissioners heard from a few of Grand’s elected officeholders about a potential ballot measure to reinstate term limits.
“We’ve discussed several times in the last couple years about whether the voters in Grand County might be interested in seeing if term limits to any of the county elected positions might be preferred,” Commissioner Rich Cimino said to introduce the topic.
Sheriff Brett Schroetlin, who became sheriff in 2015, suggested that such a ballot measure would be unnecessary.
“I feel like we could be focusing on more important things as a county rather than this right now,” Schroetlin said to commissioners. “I feel like a process is already in place for each one of us to keep our job or loose our job every four years.”
Sara Rosene, who has been the county’s clerk and recorder since 1991, explained that, to her, term limits often take qualified candidates away from voters.
“You automatically get rid of people based on their time here,” Rosene said. “That doesn’t make sense to me at all — certainly not at the local level.”
Coroner Brenda Bock also spoke up.
“I feel like we are taking the ability to vote away from the voters,” said Bock, who has held her role since 2007. “If they think we’re not doing a good enough job, they’ll find somebody to run against us at the next election.”
Commissioners emphasized that this discussion was not because they have any concerns about the current officeholders. Cimino said that the discussion stems from weighing the pros of longtime officials who bring experience versus the benefits of occasionally bringing in fresh leadership.
It’s not uncommon for Grand’s elected officials to hold office for a long time.
Grand County’s surveyor, Warren Ward, has held his position for 30 years, and county assessor Tom Weydert was sworn in 2007. Grand’s newest elected official, Treasurer Frank DeLay, was ushered into office in November.
However, DeLay replaced Christina Whitmer, who stepped down from her role last year after serving as treasurer for 30 years.
If voters were to approve term limits through a ballot question, those limits could not go into effect retroactively. For example, if voters approved a three-term limit for one of the offices, incumbents could go on to serve three more full terms from the date the measure passed regardless of how many times they had been previously re-elected.
Commissioner Kris Manguso said she would be willing to put the question to the voters.
“I’m always open to letting voters decide things,” she said. “If they want term limits back on for whatever reason, they can say yea or nay.”
Commissioner Merrit Linke said the county has “bigger fish to fry” and echoed comments about voters being able to make that choice every four years.
“They’re not the same as commissioners as we are setting policies and things,” he said.
Linke is on his third term as commissioner, while Cimino and Manguso are serving their second terms. However, because Grand County reinstated term limits in 2016, the limits are only applicable for terms that started after Jan. 1, 2017.
This means Manguso could potentially serve two more terms, while Cimino and Linke have one more remaining after completing their current period in office.
County officials may schedule a workshop at a future date to further discuss a potential ballot measure.
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