Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Repeal of term limits for Clearwater City Council members proposed

CLEARWATER — A volunteer group tasked with reviewing the city charter has proposed an unconventional change for the City Council: no more term limits.

Council members would be able to serve indefinitely, without the two-term, eight-year limit that was imposed by voters 15 years ago. That limit will force Mayor Frank Hibbard and council member John Doran out of office next year.

"If people are unhappy with the way their council is performing," Charter Review Committee chair and former city clerk Cyndie Goudeau said Monday, "they have a way of dealing with that, and that is to vote them out."

The idea is one of a dozen proposed by the committee's 13 volunteers. This committee is appointed by the City Council every four years to update the city's constitution. The group has been meeting since February and unveiled its final recommendations on Monday.

Council members will discuss those recommendations at their meeting tonight. Ideas they support could go before Clearwater voters in a referendum next year.

Many of the recommendations reinforce the city's status quo. The committee suggests keeping a city manager as head of the city, rejecting a strong-mayor form of government. They suggest keeping the council seats at-large, instead of dividing the city into districts.

Yet dissolving the term limits stands out as potentially the biggest change — and one that saw little council support Monday.

Hibbard, whose term would not be affected by the change, said voters probably wouldn't reverse their earlier vote.

"As much as I believe in it, I don't believe it will pass," Hibbard said. "My pragmatic side says we would be better to increase it to three terms, rather than unlimited."

Term limits are defended by supporters as a flattening of the political field, sloughing off incumbent dynasties and encouraging fresh ideas. Like Clearwater's City Council, the U.S. president, the Florida governor and the state Legislature are all limited to eight years.

Just over a third of Florida's 410 cities, towns and villages use term limits, according to the Florida League of Cities. Tampa, St. Petersburg, Dunedin, Oldsmar and Tarpon Springs all have their own limits; Largo and Gulfport do not.

Clearwater's term-limit law took effect in 1996, four years after an "Eight is Enough" campaign approved a term-limit amendment for the Florida House and Senate. While the limits are unpopular with both parties, pushes in recent years to extend them have died in the Legislature.

But not everywhere. A voter referendum limiting Pinellas County commissioners to eight years in 1996 was overturned seven years later by a circuit court judge, following a Florida Supreme Court decision that the limit was unconstitutional.

Council members said the limits are also bad policy, kicking out experienced leaders and forcing the voters' hand. They ensure a potentially harmful learning curve for public leaders. And they put the council at a disadvantage against consultants, lobbyists and special interests, whose experiences aren't bound by an arbitrary end date.

However, Council member John Doran didn't think that would mean much to voters.

"There is an awful lot of people who have bought into the idea to, in short, throw the rascals out," Doran said. "There are people who believe the longer people stay in office, the shorter they ought to stay in office."

So in spite of broad council support, there's a likelihood the idea wouldn't make its way to a referendum. Goudeau said Tuesday the council seemed concerned voters would see them as taking "too big a bite of the apple."

Vice mayor George Cretekos agreed with Hibbard that extending the limit past two terms might be a good compromise. But even that, he said, might find resistance at the ballot box.

"We don't tell you you can't go to the same doctor after so many years," Cretekos said. "I don't like term limits. But I'm not sure the public agrees with me."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or

Repeal of term limits for Clearwater City Council members proposed 10/05/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 7:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Daniel Ruth: Public money built Bucs' stadium, so let public sell tickets


    Who knew the Tampa Bay Bucs were actually the Daisies of Dale Mabry?

    Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, wants to do what it takes to ensure that those sitting in the lower bowl of Raymond James Stadium are wearing his team's colors. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]

  2. America's opioid problem is so bad it's cutting into U.S. life expectancy

    Public Safety

    Prosecutors in New York announced this week that an August drug raid yielded 140 pounds of fentanyl, the most in the city's history and enough to kill 32 million people, they told New York 4.

    The average American life expectancy grew overall from 2000 to 2015, but that the astounding rise in opioid-related deaths shaved 2.5 months off this improvement, according to a study. [Associated Press]
  3. After Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay officers headed south to help out

    Public Safety

    When Hurricane Irma was forecast to pummel the Tampa Bay region, Tampa police Cpl. Whitney McCormick was ready for the worst — to lose her home and all of her possessions.

    Tampa International Airport Police Department Sgt. Eric Diaz (left) stands next to Tampa Police Department Cpl. Whitney McCormick at the Collier County Command Post in the days after Hurricane Irma. More than 100 local law enforcement officers traveled from Tampa Bay to help out the county. (Courtesy of Whitney McCormick)
  4. Forecast: Sunny skies, mainly dry conditions continue across Tampa Bay


    For Tampa Bay residents, Wednesday is expected to bring lots of sunshine, lower humidity and little to no storm chances.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  5. Florida education news: Irma makeup days, HB 7069, charter schools and more


    MAKEUP DAYS: Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart waives two of the required 180 days of instruction to help districts complete the …

    Education Commissioner Pam Stewart