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Publish Date: 3/25/2006

Trustees divided on term limits


LYONS — If town voters don’t abolish municipal term limits April 4, popular three-term incumbent LaVern Johnson will have to step down from the Board of Trustees.

But opponents of the term-limits question, which the board placed on the ballot by a vote of 4-2, say it’s better to force Johnson out than to dump a rule that prevents entrenchment by public officials.

“I would state uncategorically that I think LaVern Johnson is a very honorable, respectable person in the community,” Trustee Brian Donnell, one of two board members who fought the measure, said Tuesday. “This isn’t about whether it’s a vote for or against LaVern, but rather, are we doing this the wrong way?”

A 1994 state law requires elected officials to step down after three consecutive two-year terms unless local voters override the rule.

Term limits should be placed on the ballot only if town voters signed a petition and sent it to the polls themselves, Donnell said.

“No voter requested it,” he said. “The Board of Trustees did not act in the best representative capacity for the voters.”

Johnson said she sees the opposition from Donnell and Peter Baumgartner, the other pro-term-limits trustee, as a personal attack.

“I feel like they need to run their own campaign instead of running me down,” she said.

Term limits are unnecessary and potentially harmful in a small town like Lyons, she said, because they force out some of the few residents who want to serve in office.

“If people don’t want you, they’ll vote you out,” said Johnson, who served on the town’s parks committee and chamber of commerce for decades. “I’m the one with the most knowledge and experience. It’s handy.”

To extend Johnson’s stint on the town board, which began in 1999, voters must simultaneously award her one of six open trustee seats and abolish term restrictions for Lyons officials.

Brad Turner can be reached at 720-494-5420, or by e-mail at bturner@times-call.com.

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