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Lift limit on terms?

Jenny Andreasson

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Maitland City Councilman Howard Schieferdecker takes his oath of office in April, as his family looks on. In Maitland and Winter Park, officials are limited to two terms.

Maitland has the most restrictive term limits in the Orlando area, and some on City Council want to change that.

City Clerk Maria Waldrop did a survey of the surrounding counties and cities and found that all of their elected officials can serve three consecutive terms or more, and some don't have limits at all. Winter Park commissioners are limited to four consecutive terms, while there are no term limits in Orlando, Altamonte Springs and Apopka.

Mayor Doug Kinson, who's in his second and final term and is running for the Orange County Commission District 5 seat, said cities as small as Maitland and Winter Park, where elections are decided by a few hundred votes, shouldn't have term limits.

"A candidate can go door-to-door and make up the difference and win an election," he said at the May 24 City Council meeting.

Kinson stopped short of saying he would have ran for another mayoral term if allowed, instead of aiming for the county seat.

"In my situation, my decision of my future would have been impacted if I was not term-limited in the city of Maitland," he said.

If he qualifies for the county election, his mayoral term will be cut short by more than a year. Under the city's charter, the vice mayor would fill out the rest of Kinson's term and a citizen would be appointed to fill the vice mayor's seat.

Kinson must resign by Friday, June 4 in order to qualify for the county race, but the resignation wouldn't take effect until January.

To change the city's term limits, a referendum must be approved by voters. The city is also considering asking voters to make another charter change — allowing for a special election for the mayor's position instead of the vice mayor taking over for 15 months.

Council members Bev Reponen and Howard Schieferdecker said they supported reviewing the term limits section of the charter.

"It's puzzling to me why term limits are so short because there is a learning curve for these positions," Schieferdecker said.

Reponen said it's odd that Maitland and Winter Park officials serve three-year terms while Orange County, Casselberry, Apopka and Orlando all have four-year terms. Altamonte Springs commissioners serve two-year terms, but there are no term limits. "It's a good thing to consider," she said of the review.

Councilman Phil Bonus said he supported a charter review commission that would examine the whole charter instead of just term limits. "It seems a little self-serving," he said of having such a narrow focus. "I'm not opposed to having others consider it."

Pavilion moves to workshop

Also at the May 24 meeting, City Council discussed the former Councilman Jeff Flower's offer to donate $250,000 for a performing arts pavilion at Lake Lily Park.

"It's a donation but it's a donation with a bunch of strings attached to it," Schieferdecker said.

In exchange for the money, Flowers wants the city to forgive the $50,000 advance that it gave the Performing Arts of Maitland, a nonprofit he founded.

Schieferdecker said the city should host a workshop that includes the public and Flowers "to vet this out and come up with tentative terms."

Bonus was confused because Council directed the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board to gather input and bring it back to Council. "We send it to you and you send it back to us?" he said. "It's like a hot potato."

Board chair Susan Greco said the board needs more information about the funding and process before it can inform the public about the project. "Like who's going to own it, is it limited to Lake Lily? Flowers has said, 'If I don't like it I'm going to pull the plug."

City Council directed Greco to schedule an initial workshop to have the public weigh in on those questions, along with Flowers. A date has not yet been scheduled.