Islamorada voters who head to the polls for the November 2024 presidential election will see a question on whether they support eight-year term limits for council members.
A proposal by Councilwoman Elizabeth Jolin calling for a referendum on the modification of council terms passed via 3-2 vote at the Nov. 7 meeting at Founders Park Community Center. The village charter allows council members to serve four consecutive two-year terms, totaling eight years, before they have to step away. The person, however, could run for office after taking a year off — and could potentially serve another eight consecutive years if the majority of voters give their approval at the polls.
If the voter majority says “yes” to the term limit ballot question in November 2024, council members who’ve served eight years in office wouldn’t be able to run any more. Jolin said the proposal isn’t directed at any current or past council member. Rather, she brought forth the idea having noticed “what happens in this town is actually a reflection of what happens at the national level.”
“We see people like Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein and Mitch McConnell who have served for a very long time,” Jolin said. “It’s a problem and we could go on in an analysis for what’s happening at the national level and put it right down into this little town and make so many changes.”
“I think it’s one area we can fix,” she continued. “Term limits make sense in most places.”
An original proposal sought to put the referendum on the March 19 presidential primary ballot. Council members decided on November 2024, as more voters would be coming out to cast their ballots.
Councilman Mark Gregg, who voted against the referendum, said he believed Jolin’s proposal was directed at Deb Gillis, former councilwoman, himself and others who’ve served the village for a number of years. Gregg was first elected to the council in 2000. He ran and secured reelection in 2020 and 2022.
Gregg called the proposal “political assassination by charter.”
“This came about because a small number of people decided it was a way to eliminate serious competition from the next election, and it may be,” he said. “You may have hit the jackpot.”
Vice Mayor Sharon Mahoney voted in favor of the referendum.
“It should be up to the public if they want to see the same people,” she said. “With the same people you get the same attitude, the same thoughts and the same patterns.”
Mayor Buddy Pinder believed putting the referendum on the March primary election made it seem like it was targeted at certain people. Pinder voted against the referendum.
“I just think it should go to the November (2024) election to be fair to get more people to vote on it,” he said.
Gregg believed the eight-year term limit proposal was an insulting lifetime ban for council members who gave hours of their time to serve the public at the expense of spending time with their families.
“If they (the voters) don’t want us to serve, they have a chance every two years to get us out,” he said. “This will further divide our community and council. It’s not going to be a positive factor for any manager candidate to look at when this kind of thing goes on. … There’s personalities involved in these attacks.”
Responding to Gregg’s comments, Councilman Henry Rosenthal said he knows “what it’s like.” Rosenthal voted in favor of the term limit referendum alongside Jolin and Mahoney.
“Personally, I do. No matter what I’ve done in the past it doesn’t count. It’s unfortunate.”
In other matters, council members verbally agreed to direct village staff to revise an ordinance to send a referendum to the ballot for council pay of $1,500 a month. Last month, an ordinance failed to get enough support to ask voters whether they supported the idea of council members receiving $2,000 a month. An ordinance will need to come back to the council, and four “yes” votes are needed to place the question on the November 2024 ballot.