Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Aldermen's Terms in Office in the Past

At the town hall conversation with Mayor Rick Rector last Thursday, the issue of the length of terms--both for the mayor and for the Common Council--was a topic of discussion. Rector is proposing lengthening the mayor's term in office--not for himself but for his successor--from two years to four years. Extending the term of office for aldermen and Council president was also discussed. 

Hilary Hillman suggested that, if there was to be a referendum extending the term of office for aldermen, it would also be useful to introduce staggered terms for aldermen so that what happened in 2018--when the Council president and every member of the Council except Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) were new to the job--would not happen again. Having staggered terms for the aldermen would ensure that at least half the aldermen would have some experience in the work of the Council.

This is not a new idea. The aldermen's terms used to be staggered. The practice was established in the City Charter of 1855, where it reads:
Aldermen … shall continue in office for two years  except that one of the Aldermen chosen in each ward  shall continue in office but one year  and thereafter one Alderman from each Ward  shall be annually elected.
Staggered terms seems to have been the practice until the City Charter was revised in 1921. That document simply indicates that the terms of the aldermen shall be two years, and it seems that after 1921 there were no longer staggered terms. Council minutes reveal that in 1937, for example, the five wards were represented by the following people:
First Ward--William Egan | Earl Colwell
Second Ward--Gordon Decker | Thomas Buckley, Jr.
Third Ward--George Barlow | Albert Unger
Fourth Ward--Stephen Banks | Myron Hermance
Fifth Ward--Craig Thorn, Jr. | Thomas Moy
The next year (as today, aldermen took office at the beginning of even years), seven of the ten aldermen were different. Only the two Second Ward aldermen and one Fourth Ward alderman remained the same.
First Ward--Morris Millman | William J. Richards
Second Ward--Gordon Decker | Thomas Buckley, Jr.
Third Ward--James A. Marshall | Donald Huddleston
Fourth Ward--Myron Hermance | Arthur Weinman
Fifth Ward--Henry L. Burt | William B. Moore 
So far, I have not discovered why the staggered terms were abandoned. Perhaps it had to do with the challenge of holding a local election every year--something that would not be the case today if the terms were staggered but the length of the term increased to four years.

1 comment:

  1. Awful lot of talk and writing about terms here in Hudson since I asked the question about changing terms to the Mayor last Thursday at his forum. He likely would not have discussed the subject -- only if someone else had asked same question. You are all welcome.