Harford County Council members Jessica Boyle-Tsottles and Aaron Penman, both Republicans, said Tuesday they plan to introduce a bill to establish term limits on council members.
For Penman, the newly elected District B representative, this issue was one of his campaign’s promises.
“It is my belief that serving on the council is a unique civic duty and should not be a career or lifetime assignment,” Penman said during the meeting. “Council members should be a representative for the people, by the people, and not so entrenched in self-preservation or political rhetoric that they lose sight of the real issues of their communities and county.”
Penman thanked Boyle-Tsottles for offering to co-sponsor the bill and said he’s had “positive conversations” regarding the proposal with Council President Patrick Vincenti, a Republican.
“I look forward to working with the rest of my peers on the council to move this bill forward,” Boyle-Tsottles said during the meeting.
The bill would limit council members from running for a given position for no more than two terms, Penman said. For example, it would allow for someone to serve for two terms in their district and then for two more terms as council president.
Passage of the bill would send the issue to a referendum, allowing voters to decide whether to impose the term limits in the 2024 election.
“We don’t want to make the decision for the county,” Penman said. “We want the county to make the decision for themselves.”
Boyle-Tsottles said they’d like to introduce the bill within the next month, but are trying to garner support among fellow council members in the meantime. The bill is still being drafted and technicalities are still being worked out, she said.
“We need change in the council,” Boyle-Tsottles said. “If you’re doing the job for more than eight years, in my opinion, there’s an issue, and you should be moving on to do something else.”
Council member Dion Guthrie, a Democrat from District A, voiced opposition, calling it a piece of “feel-good legislation.”
“I don’t want to take it out of the people’s hands,” Guthrie said during the meeting. “I think the people have a right to make a decision of who they want sitting up here. I don’t think it should be our right to say, ‘Well, you can only do it two terms.’ ”
Of the County Council members who were reelected in November, Guthrie is serving his third term — his first two were from 2006 to 2014. Tony Giangiordano, a District C Republican, is serving his second term and Vincenti is serving his second term as president and third term on the County Council overall.
In other council action, members were appointed to a variety of county boards: Guthrie to the Harford County Community Mediation Commission; Boyle-Tsottles to the Harford County Cultural Arts Advisory Board; council Vice President Giangiordano to the Economic Development Advisory Board and as the Sheriff’s Office liaison.
Vincenti was appointed as the Harford County Chamber liaison and to the Local Emergency Planning Commission; District D council member James Reilly, a Republican, was appointed to the Local Management Board; and District F council member Jacob Bennett, a Democrat, was appointed to the Tobacco Task Force.
The council also approved some of Harford County Executive Bob Cassilly’s deputy director appointments: Nicole Barnwell as the deputy director of human resources; William Bettin as the public works’ department deputy director of the water and sewer division; Karen Myers as the deputy director of procurement; Rick Pernas as deputy director of the treasury; and Amber Shrodes as deputy director of community services.