Term Limits Comments by Burt Talcott
This is a portion of a public letter to the members of the Pierce County Charter Review Commission by Burt Talcott, one of the Commissioners. This is just the portion to do with term limits.
There is no valid reason or evidence to weaken or extend term limits. Term limits of eight years should apply to all elected officials and official Committees and Commissions of the county.
Public service is a noble calling. The best and most satisfying service is by private citizens who are willing to devote some time in service to their communities and other persons. There are many ways to serve. A career of public employment can be a beneficial and rewarding career just as a career in private employment – service for a salary, fees, benefits and pensions.
Service in policy making, elective positions is quite different. Service should be to change or improve government, for the public benefit not just personal employment. Energy, wisdom, initiative, creativity, integrity, collegiality and similar talents are needed as compared with specific skills, work ethic, dependability and similar abilities of employees and managers. The former is best achieved in the short term; the latter is more long term.
Elected officials soon learn to favor the status quo; they stagnate, become obsolescent – satisfied, even obsessed, with the generous pay, perks, privileges, power, pensions, extravagant lobbyist favors, public and media attention, arrogated status.
To better serve the public, new “blood,” energy, ideas, initiative, creativity, modernization, future planning is necessary. Turnover is beneficial. There is no one in public service whose job could not be better performed by hundreds, if not thousands, in their legislative or Executive districts.
If the President can “learn” his job in a few months, and he can, state, county and local officials can learn their jobs in much less time. Any department employee or staffer who says “I’ll be here longer than you, so stuff it” (or words to that effect) commits gross insubordination and should be fired or transferred on the spot.
Any elected official who believes he should ‘change the wall color or desks arrangements, and more” after every election should be subject to a better properties manager. Anyone who seeks public elective office and believes he should be assured of a healthy pension needs to be unelected fast. I want to see the candidate for public office who advertises that “I need twenty years to ensure my pension; or I won’t change the staff; or the office needs new color and office arrangement; so elect me” These are pitiful reasons for public service.
Speaker Foley and two long term US Senators were replaced and no one lost a beat – in fact government was improved. I can’t name a single public official whose loss would be missed after the funeral or the celebratory farewell. And there would be new energy, ideas and modernization which government at all levels needs desperately and urgently.
Our priority should be improved government – not improving the status of government officials. Eight years as a county official is adequate; if they can’t get their objective accomplished in that time, let someone else try. If they are looking for pensions, apply for county employment. If turnover complicates the old office arrangement or practices; the county should employ a more competent properties manager.
Lengthening term limits is extravagantly costly and extremely detrimental to county government. Don’t do it.