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Cornelius News

Would 4-year Town Board terms be better than 2?

Photo by Jason Benavides

May 1. By Dave Yochum. The Cornelius Town Board will take a first look at the process for changing elected officials’ term lengths from two years to four, as well as staggering which seats are open for election during each election cycle.

Right now the mayor and Board of Commissioners are elected for two-year terms during non-partisan elections held in odd-numbered years.

If four-year terms were to be enacted, local elections would still be held in odd-number years, so as not to overwhelm the ballot in even years when presidential and gubernatorial elections are held.

The current board was elected in 2021, an election that saw four out of five commissioners lose in what amounted to a referendum on a pro-growth track record during the previous two years.

Pros and cons

Indeed one of the best things about biennial local elections is that elected officials might remain more responsive to the majority opinion of the electorate.

Benefits of a four-year term include less work from staff to onboard new commissioners as well as experience among the commissioners when making big decisions like tax-rate changes.


“This cycle also results in staggered terms, ensuring at least two years’ of experience on the board at all times,” said Commissioner Todd Sansbury, who was elected in 2021.

LBJ’s wisdom

As Lyndon Johnson said, there’s “little magic in the number two,” but governing is complicated and the problems commissioners face are ever-changing.

Experience helps, Sansbury said.

But a shorter term may encourage greater interest from citizens interested in running, and a process where the entire slate of candidates is elected each cycle, he explained.


A referendum

Either way, Sansbury said it’s most important to present a referendum to the citizens and allow them to decide how often they want to elect their municipal representatives.

Two decades ago the town enacted four-year terms, then soon went back to two-year terms.

Washam: It’s about accountability

Mayor Woody Washam said candidate accountability is an important factor that citizens should want to weigh in on every two years.

“Extending terms to four years could reflect a few benefits but with risks to voters. With that said, the voters of our town should ultimately decide the risks vs. rewards of something this important,” Washam said.

Monday’s meeting gets under way at 6 pm in Town Hall. You can live stream it at www.cornelius.org. Click on Watch Meetings Online at the bottom of the far-left column