A measure on Philomath voters’ ballots offers the possibility of new term lengths, term limits, election cycles and eligibility requirements for the mayor and City Council members.
If voters favor it, Measure 2-126 would adjust the Philomath City Charter to allow for staggered elections of councilors — three of the six Council seats would be up for grabs every two years — and change term lengths for councilors and the mayor from two to four years.
Currently, according to the charter, each of these positions could turn over in the same election cycle.
“Right now what happens is that, if all council positions are filled with new people, they don’t have the institutional knowledge of what has happened before,” said councilman Doug Edmonds, who is running against fellow councilman Chas Jones for mayor. “Typically, that doesn’t happen, but it could happen.”
According to Edmonds, no event in particular prompted this would-be protective measure against a council full of newbies. Rather, Edmonds said he and his colleagues “recognized as a council that this would be a good change” when the suggestion came about from a special committee assembled to examine term limits, which he also sat on.
“We spent several months at the beginning of 2020 looking at this and looking at the wording and putting together a proposal for the council to look at,” he said. “The council approved it, then after that we went through the various stages to get it into the voters’ pamphlet.”
Measure 2-126 specifies that, if passed, all elected officials will be subject to a limit of three four-year terms. If a councilor is appointed to fill a vacancy the term would be counted toward the limit if the appointment is for two or more years.
This year, 12 candidates are vying for seats on the City Council: incumbents Ruth Causey, Matt Lehman, David Low and Matthew Thomas, along with newcomers Jessica Andrade, Catherine Biscoe, Lawrence E. Johnson, Joey McGlinchy, Teresa Nielson, Jason Richards, Thomas Sullivan and Peggy Yoder.
“We have a full slate of options to select from,” Edmonds said. “This year in particular … it could all be new people.”
Measure 2-126, if passed, wouldn’t take effect until the November 2022 general election. In that election, three councilors would begin four-year terms and the remaining three would begin a two-year term to start the staggering effect. Beginning in 2024, the mayor would be elected to a four-year term.
City Council candidates would inform the city election official of a two- or four-year term preferences just for that election. If all six positions are filled with three two-year preference councilors and three four-year preference councilors, those preferences will be honored. If there are discrepancies or a misalignment in preferences, the term lengths will be determined by who received the most votes, with those garnering the most votes getting the longer terms.
Additionally, the charter mandates that those running for Philomath elected offices have to have been residents for at least six months. If Measure 2-126 passes, candidates will have to be residents for at least 12 months prior to the election. However, the residency requirement won’t apply for appointive positions, which also carry six-month minimums.
“When you move to a new place … how long did it take you to kind of get a feel for where things were?” Edmonds said. “It probably takes you half a year to figure out how to get from point A to point B without using a GPS system. If they haven’t been here for at least a year it’s going to be difficult for them to appreciate what’s really going on.”
More information on the measure can be found at tinyurl.com/Measure2-126.
Nia Tariq can be reached at 541-812-6091. Follow her on Twitter @NiaTariq.