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Harford County executive proposes referendum on consecutive term limits for County Council

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has proposed a referendum for voters to decide whether members of the County Council should have limits on consecutive terms from 2022 onward, the county announced Wednesday.

On Sept. 8, Glassman sent draft legislation to the County Council that would let voters decide if council members should be made to take one four-year term off before seeking reelection after two consecutive terms, according to a statement from the county.

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The legislation must be approved by the County Council before it can go on the November 2022 ballot, county spokesperson Cindy Mumby said, and would take effect in 2022 if approved. The bill is awaiting co-sponsors, according to the statement.

If approved by voters, the consecutive term limits would apply separately to council members and the council president, who is elected at-large. Under Glassman’s proposal, a council member could be elected to two consecutive four-year terms and then be elected to the council presidency for two consecutive terms afterward.

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Currently, council members are elected to four-year terms and have no restrictions on the number of consecutive terms they can serve.

In a letter to the council, Glassman wrote that the proposed consecutive term-limits on council members would mirror those of the county executive’s office. Per the county charter, a county executive who served two terms could run again as long as there is a one-term break after their first two. That process could, theoretically, repeat infinitely, Mumby said.

“As with county executive, one may run again after two consecutive terms by allowing a term to pass in between,” Glassman wrote to the council.

Though it is possible, no Harford County executive has been reelected in such a way before, Mumby said. Glassman is in his second term as county executive and therefore cannot run for the office in 2022.

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While Glassman proposed the legislation after multiple constituents approached him about consecutive term limits, Mumby said, he has been in favor of term limits since his own time on the County Council between 1990 and 1998. Glassman proposed term limiting legislation for council members around 1994, but it never moved forward, she said.

If the resolution is passed, current council members running in 2022 would not be immediately affected and could run for two more consecutive terms before hitting the proposed limit.

Currently, the longest serving member of the council is Robert Wager, who has been on the council for nearly 20 years total, including serving time as its president. His district encompasses Aberdeen, Churchville, Fountain Green, Thomas Run, and other eastern and central communities the county.

Wagner said it generally takes two annual budget cycles for a member of the council to get their feet under them and grow accustomed to the many duties of the body. Because about half a member’s first term on the council is spent learning, that leaves between two and six years where a they are comfortable and better equipped to do the job and address constituent issues.

“Six years seems like a lot, looking at it,” he said. “Yet when you are there, six years becomes very short.”

Wagner said he is not ready to sign onto the legislation as a co-sponsor and that voters already do a fine job electing representatives who work for their communities and voting against those who do not. While he can see both sides of the argument, he said the legislation is not strictly needed.

“I can see the merits on one side, but I also think that the voters themselves will retain council members who do well for their community,” he said.

Thus far, four of the current seven incumbents on the council have filed to run for their seats again in 2022. Two of the three incumbents who are not seeking to keep their seats are running for other positions. Council member Andre Johnson is running to represent District 34A in the General Assembly; council member Chad Shrodes has announced a run for clerk of the county’s circuit court; and council member Joe Woods has not announced a run for any seat in the county.

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