McHenry County Board to consider term limits, reducing its size
Efforts to shrink government size and encourage turnover among elected officials are moving forward in McHenry County, pending approval from the county board.
An ad hoc committee on governmental consolidation this week recommended placing two binding referendum questions on the Nov. 6 ballot seeking term limits for county board members and the chairman. If voters support both measures, the chairman would be restricted to two terms, and board members couldn't serve for more than 12 years.
"We can serve as an example to follow," Board Chairman Jack Franks said. "I think voters are tired of seeing the same faces for generations. We need new blood."
Additionally, a proposal to reduce the size of the county board from 24 to 18 members was pushed forward by the committee, which comprises nine board members and Franks. That ordinance goes into effect in 2022 if it's ratified by the full county board next month.
The ad hoc committee was created by Franks earlier this year to explore ways to streamline county government. Though an initial proposal suggested cutting the board in half, the committee later recommended reducing it by 25 percent as a compromise to those who were against the change.
"Our citizens want fewer governments, and they want the necessary ones to be smaller and more efficient," Franks said, pointing to a 2016 advisory referendum in which 77 percent of voters supported reducing the board's size.
Exactly how the reduction would take place, and whether redistricting would be necessary, have yet to be determined, he added.
The county board also will hold a special meeting Aug. 16 to determine whether to place the term limit referendum questions on the ballot. The move would give voters the power to decide whether their elected representatives "should get a shelf life," Franks said. "For me, it's a no-brainer to do that."
The term limits would go into effect for board members at the same time as the board reduction ordinance. The chairman's eight-year limit would begin in 2020.
Board member Donna Kurtz said imposing term limits would give new candidates with fresh ideas a better chance of being elected. But it also increases the likelihood of a less experienced board, she said.
"The organizational, institutional knowledge that many have from their years of service is not something to turn your nose up at," Kurtz said. "It's very, very important consideration that there is a trade-off when you put in term limits."
Franks said he believes such restrictions are necessary at all levels of government. The term limits proposed would still give elected officials plenty of time to accomplish their goals, he said.
"Hopefully, it'll ignite the fire of reform around the state," Franks said.