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Town OKs change in terms

Pineville Town Council became the first Mecklenburg County town to have four-year staggered terms. The council unanimously voted Feb. 10 to increase terms from two years.

“We feel like it’s the best fit for us, being a small municipality,” said town manager Haynes Brigman.

Under the change, the two top vote-getters in the November election will receive four-year terms, and the third- and fourth-place winners will get two-year terms.

When those two-year seats come up for re-election two years later, they will be turned into four-year seats, creating the staggered effect. The mayor, who votes only in case of a tie, will remain on a two-year term.

“It’s just to ensure that there is not a complete turnover of the board in one election,” Brigman said. “We feel like there would be a lot of institutional knowledge lost and a lot of time and energy would be spent catching those council members up.”

The term length increase required a change to the town charter. The last time town council voted on a charter change was in the fall, when council members approved changing its form of government from council-mayor to council-manager.

One of the biggest differences is that the manager has hiring and firing ability, Brigman said. Under the old system, those responsibilities were reserved for town council.

Brigman said the change in the fall was to align the actions of the town and the charter, since the administrator has had de facto hiring and firing abilities for years.

But before that, the town hadn’t changed its charter since 2005, when council members cleaned up some of the language, said Brigman.

Although there was an opportunity for public comment on the longer terms, no one spoke for or against the change during the February meeting.

Council members said the increased term length will help the government run more smoothly.

“As the town grows, it provides stability,” said Mayor Pro Tem Melissa Rogers Davis. “It allows council members additional time to accomplish goals and become familiar with the day-to-day town business.”

Mayor Jack Edwards agreed.

“It’s just a change to make turnover in the government a little bit easier instead of everyone coming up every two years,” he said. “I find it hard to believe it’s that big of a deal.”

Still, with the vote, the town becomes the first municipality in Mecklenburg County to have four-year terms.

Other Mecklenburg County municipalities operate under two-year terms that aren’t staggered for council members.

Nearby communities such as Concord do have staggered four-year terms, however.

With Pineville leading the way on four-year terms in Mecklenburg County, Davis said, “it will be interesting to see if others follow.”

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