Council Corner: Term limits in Tualatin?

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At the June 14 City Council meeting, residents of Tualatin proposed a change to the City’s Charter to amend current term limits for elected officials. The current term limits adopted in November of 2016 provide for a combined maximum of twelve years of service on Council or as Mayor in any 20-year period. The proposed amendment would make a change to allow those who have served two or more terms on Council to also serve two terms as mayor. Any proposed amendment to the Charter would ultimately be decided by Tualatin voters.

In the five years since the current term limits were put in place, we have seen the benefits of term limits, with a change of over 70 percent in the membership of the Council, including the other five women I am proud to currently serve with on Council.  While term limits allow for new and diverse voices, the current term limits have the potential to harm Tualatin by limiting the eligibility of our current mayor, and all future mayors, to serving a single term after serving eight years as a city councilor.

In Tualatin, serving as councilor or mayor is a volunteer role that is time-consuming and has a steep learning curve. In my experience, this began with learning the basics of city government, along with managing unexpected crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires and ice storms.  

After gaining a solid foundation of knowledge, councilors typically join committees to represent Tualatin’s interests in local and regional matters, such as transportation issues. This gives councilors the opportunity to become familiar at regional and statewide events and have a stronger combined voice to advocate for our city.  

As someone who is still in the learning process, I can clearly see where the knowledge and relationships that our current mayor built up while serving on Council provide a solid base to effectively lead. Mayor Bubenik’s prior experience and the relationships he has established have brought many benefits to Tualatin, including funding from the County, State and Federal governments for transportation projects, park improvements and planning for future development. Under the current term limits, voters will not be given the option to decide if Mayor Bubenik should serve another term as mayor.

The requested amendment change is about making a choice about what is best for the future of Tualatin. The amendment respects the term limits policy that was adopted by voters in 2016. In fact, it is my understanding that Mae Heide, the chief petitioner for the 2016 term limits initiative, supports the proposed amendment. The requested change is an extremely narrow but important addition to the Charter that will provide better governance for Tualatin by allowing seasoned councilors the opportunity to serve two terms as mayor. 

Councilor Valerie Pratt