Starting in November, Pineville may become the first municipality in Mecklenburg County to go to four-year staggered terms for council members.
Pineville Town Council seats currently go up for re-election every two years, including the mayor. The council held a public hearing Jan. 13 to discuss changing the town charter to create four-year staggered terms.
“What this does is prevents the opportunity for council and mayor to totally be ousted in one election period,” said Town Administrator Haynes Brigman during the hearing. “It’s often difficult for council members to enact any change in a two-year time span.
“Two years in a municipal government is not a very long time.”
A resident asked why the mayor’s term wouldn’t be lengthened, and Brigman responded it wouldn’t be as appropriate since the mayor is a nonvoting member. Other than that, there was no discussion from residents or the council about the proposed change.
Council members are expected to make a decision at their Feb. 10 meeting.
Mayor Jack Edwards said after the hearing that changing the term lengths and making them staggered was one of his first priorities when he came into office.
Edwards said he wanted to change the terms because even the possibility of the entire board turning over could pose problems.
Under the proposed change, the two top vote-getters in the November election would receive four-year terms, and the third- and fourth-place winners would get two-year terms.
When those two-year seats came up for re-election two years later, they would be turned into four-year seats, creating the staggered effect. The mayor, who votes only in case of a tie, would remain on a two-year term.
Councilman David Phillips said he supports lengthening and staggering the terms. Losing all council members at once, he said, could hinder pending issues facing the town at any particular time; plus, he said, the board could lose all its knowledge and experience in one term.
“Although the possibility of all four incumbents losing during the same election would be unusual, it is a possibility,” Phillips said. “This simply allows a safeguard against that.”
He said staggered four-year terms also would allow elected officials a longer opportunity to get settled and gain experience.
“I just feel that it would be beneficial to protect the town,” Edwards said. “It’s not about protecting people’s seats. That’s unimportant to me. It’s protecting the town and the integrity of it by having that continuity.”
All other Mecklenburg County municipalities operate under two-year terms that aren’t staggered for council members.
Still, nearby communities like Concord do have staggered four-year terms, said Brigman, adding that, “We feel like it’s what’s best for us.”
Edwards said he’s OK with being the first in the county.
“When you have a small board of four people, the chances of them being defeated all at one time is certainly more of a possibility,” he said. “It’s all about protecting the citizens.”