Commissioners support four year terms

BALDWIN — The Lake County Board of Commissioners narrowly approved a resolution, by a vote of 4-3, in support of House Bills No. 4937 and 4938 and Senate Bills No. 504 and 505 to enact four-year terms for county commissioners at their meeting on Nov. 13.

Commissioner Karl Walls, who voted against the resolution, said,"I like the two years. If some of the voters don't like me, or I get in here and don't do a good job, it gives them a chance to get rid of me in two years."

"If you can't do a good enough job to get your constituents to vote for you every two years, maybe you shouldn't be there," he added.

An amendment to the Michigan Constitution in 1966 established the term for elected county commissioners to run concurrent with that of state representatives — elected each even-numbered year for a term of two years.

If adopted, the House and Senate bills will change the term of office to four years, effective “at or after” the 2022 general election.

"That's still the biggest opposition to the legislation," Lake County Administrator Tobi Lake said. "If county commissioners are on four-year, then mid-year they can run for state representative without giving up the county commission seat. If they win, they take the state representative seat, if they lose, they go back to the county commission."

According to the resolution, Michigan is one of five states that provide for exclusively two-year terms for county commissioners. All other county and township elected officials are elected for a term of at least four years.

The reasoning behind the desire to change the term of office is that the scope of duties of a county commissioner has greatly increased and the position is a “highly complex oversight role that requires years to master,” the resolution states.

"County government is unique in Michigan, because every two years you can flip the entire board and have seven new board members," Lake said. "Think about what that does for planning, education and training. There's a lot more to it than people think it will be when they run for county commissioner."

Commissioners Christine Balulis, Betty Dermyer and Walls voted against the resolution. Commissioners Robert Sanders, Don Arquette, Dawn Martin and Supervisor Howard Ludholtz voted in favor.

A resolution of support was approved by the Osceola County Board of Commissioners at a meeting on Nov. 5.