Ron Campbell

Leesburg Town Councilman Ron Campbell Times-Mirror File Photo

During a January work session, Leesburg Town Council discussed the possibility of imposing term limits on the mayor and individual council members in the future, a topic that returned during a recent work session.

“Term limits aren’t unusual devices used in a political community … but I think the question has come up in this particular community and this particular case only to look at, I think, how we continue to encourage growth and involvement and leadership,” Councilman Ron Campbell said.

Per Article II, Section 5 of the Virginia Constitution, the only qualification for holding public office in Virginia “shall be that a person must have been a resident of the Commonwealth for one year next preceding his election and be qualified to vote for that office, except as otherwise provided in this Constitution.”

Council documents say this means time having already served is a non-issue for candidates seeking re-election, though “otherwise provided” refers to the office of governor, who is barred from serving consecutive terms elsewhere in the state Constitution.

However, several staff contacts, including Deputy Town Manager Keith Markel, said imposing term limits on local elected officials is a laborious process that would take at least two years.

“... we’d have to find a member of [the Virginia] General Assembly to support that legislation on the town’s behalf, introduce that, then have it pass successfully [in] two concurrent years,” Markel told council.

“If you’re going to ask the General Assembly to consider that, you need someone who really has a strong presence and who can really carry the bill through,” Virginia Municipal League Executive Director Michelle Gowdy said.

Gowdy added finding a representative for such a bill in the General Assembly would be a challenge all its own, as there are numerous long-sitting members who “have no appetite” for term limits, so it would be in the town’s best interest to build momentum and seek backup from other localities with similar considerations.

On that note, Vice Mayor Fernando Martinez asked whether the General Assembly can “cherry-pick” which localities in Virginia get to introduce term limits, or if it would have to be an “all or nothing” action on behalf of the entire commonwealth. Gowdy confirmed the latter.

Councilman Tom Dunn followed by asking whether the General Assembly would have the authority to modify Leesburg’s Town Charter to remove the position that council elections are nonpartisan, further opining the town already has a “de facto party system” which both Democrats and Republicans have been “using … in force.”

Interim Town Attorney Martin Crim answered affirmatively, saying such action would require a favorable, super-majority vote from both chambers of the General Assembly.

“This might or might not have an effect on federal employees who are barred under the Hatch Act from engaging in partisan politics,” Crim cautioned.

No indication was given as to if or when the topic could return to council.

(11) comments

Eric the half a troll

We have term limits, they are called elections. Why should the government get to eliminate my right to vote for any candidate I choose so arbitrarily? So anti-democratic.


The General Assembly gave the authority to municipalities effective July 1 to make their own decisions about removal of monuments, but it would be such a "laborious" process for the G.A. to give municipalities the ability to institute term limits in their own town councils? SMH.


I can understand why a career politician might be against term limits. But why isn't everyone else?

More Cowbell

term limits is a must at every level. Way too many career corrupt politicians in office.


Great idea! Hopefully this will work its way up through state and federal governments....


100% agree that there should be term limits. Certainly for BoS and LCPS after all of they are on record for recently. Vote as you see fit. Get to work.


Please include the BOS and school board in such discussions and eventual policy. Please include a condition that unless the majority of the registered voters support any candidate they can't win! In this way perhaps the only BOS member we will have to deal with is the former Mayor who has taken the most reasonable positions during her tenure. IMHO :-)


What happens when turn out is less than 50%? That would automatically mean no one could be elected in that entire election because no one could have gotten a "majority of the registered voters support" since less than a majority even voted in the election. If I'm not mistaken, most local, state and federal code regarding elections state that x number of people (whatever the office is) SHALL be elected. They don't allow for no one to be elected. Additionally, election codes generally also put a definitive end on the term of the incumbents (x date through x date). What would happen when the term of the current elected officials ended but no new ones were elected? You would have a government with no elected officials. From a practical standpoint, there would then be no way to govern as there would be no elected body to pass all the resolutions/bills/etc. that are required to operate. I hope you were just saying it tongue and cheek because it's one of the stupidest things I've heard a politician say lately, and that's saying something.


This needs to be enacted ASAP

Chris McHale

Didn't bother to read the article. I support term limits period.


Hear, hear!

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