Board terms could extend

Should the Davidson Board of Commissioners lengthen its members' terms and that of the mayor from two to four years?

Eight of the nine speakers at a public hearing on the issue last week said the board should either keep the terms at two years or let voters decide in a referendum.

"Elected officials should stand before their constituents as often as possible," Cornelius commissioner Jim Bensman said at the hearing at Davidson Town Hall..

"Why do we need to change it now?" asked former longtime Davidson commissioner Sandy Carnegie. "We took up this issue, and both times it never got off the ground, and one reason was accountability. If folks like you, they'll vote for you. If they didn't like us, they voted us off."

"This is Davidson," resident William Jackson said. "This is Mecklenburg County. We pride ourselves on representative democracy."

Davidson town boards have considered lengthening the terms of mayor and board members for several decades, Mayor John Woods said. The issue resurfaced last year when a committee examining governance issues as part of the Davidson Comprehensive Plan initiative suggested that longer terms merited study.

After last week's public hearing, commissioners said they intended to vote at their June 14 regular meeting on whether to call a referendum on the issue during the November general election.

If the measure were approved, town commissioners would serve staggered four-year terms. The highest two vote-getters in the first subsequent election would serve four years; and the next three highest vote-getters would get two-year terms. All future terms would be four years.

Charlotte and all towns in Mecklenburg County have two-year terms for mayor and council or board of commissioners.

But more N.C. municipalities of Davidson's size have moved to four-year terms, according to research by Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice.

Neighboring Mooresville elects its commissioners on staggered four-year terms and its mayor every two years.

Mecklenburg County commissioners last week discussed whether to move toward four-year terms, but a motion to have staff bring forward potential language on a referendum failed when only three commissioners backed the idea.

Mecklenburg is one of just two counties where the entire county board of commissioners is up for election every two years.

The only other speaker at last week's Davidson public hearing was a member of the committee that raised the issue of extending terms. John Phillips said he wanted to apologize for having helped raise an issue that "seems to have upset most of the town."

Staff Writer April Bethea contributed.