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Richmond Town Council considers two-year terms

May 24, 2011

RICHMOND -- The Town Council is marinating on an idea to pull back the newly changed term lengths for elected officials from four years to two years.

This issue is one that the council -- and prospective candidates for town office -- has wrestled with since the change to four years went into effect for the current terms. It was spoken on at length at the May 3 meeting after being discussed during a previous public forum.

And it was that discussion that caused council Vice President Henry Oppenheimer, an incumbent in the last election, to ask for the topic to appear as a proper agenda item.

He led the conversation at the May 3 meeting, which began with his reiterating that he has never been in favor of four-year terms. "And I'm still not for them," he said.

Oppenheimer went on to say that he believes the citizens of the town should have the opportunity at the next election in 2012 to decide whether there should be two-year terms.

Doing this would not impact the current council. But if voters approved the change at the November 2012 election, then candidates running for the Town Council in 2014 would only face two-year terms. This would shorten the terms for other elected offices, too, such as town moderator and town clerk.

"I think it's a very difficult commitment for a new person to say, 'Yes, I want to run for Town Council,' but they don't know how much work it entails and also say, 'Yes, I have to do it for four years," Oppenheimer said. "I think two years is much more doable."

He recognized that there are other reasons why someone would back out from running for the council, such as family commitments. "But my fear for the four-year term is that some people don't want to make that four-year commitment," he added.

More information is available in this week's The Chariho Times.

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