Term limits proposed in review of Sandy Springs charter

Term limits in Sandy Springs could be up for discussion again in next year's legislative session.

The Sandy Springs Charter Commission is planning to recommend that the mayor and council be limited to two four-year terms in office, beginning with the 2017 election. The commission voted 5-3 last month to make the recommendation to the Sandy Springs legislative delegation.

State Rep. Wendall Willard, R-Sandy Springs, who is also the city attorney, said the matter could be taken up by the Legislature in January.

Willard didn’t venture an opinion on where the delegation stands on the issue, but he did say he expected there would be a discussion about it.

Charter commission Chairman Rusty Paul, who opposes term limits, said the vote for the recommendation was reflective of the views of the community. “There are differing opinions out there on this issue,” he said Wednesday, “but this is something the charter commission will recommend in its final report.”

Sandy Springs Councilwoman Karen Meinzen-McEnerny said she believes term limits would encourage citizens to get more involved in the political process. But she said she doubts the limits will be imposed anytime soon since the idea didn’t survive in the original charter.

Carolyn Axt, a member of the charter commission, said she believes term limits will help freshen leadership in the city as it grows.

“People will feel more encouraged to get involved because they will know these seats will come open,” she said.

Sandy Springs’ charter calls for a five-year review, which is the task of the commission, Paul said. He said the commission will review the entire charter and make suggestions for improvements. Many will be just tweaking words or phrases, he said, with the recommendation of term limits likely to be the biggest suggested change.

For example, one of the suggestions that has come from the review involves adding the word "contractors" for city workers to reflect the mix of public and private in the government structure.

The commission also decided earlier this year not to recommend at-large posts for the City Council.

The group is set to meet again Tuesday to continue its review of the charter. Paul said the commission still has “a long way to go in the review process,” but the review is needed because it “allows us to look back and make recommendations for changes.”