APRIL 23, 2009 ISSUE

Boone Mayoral Term Extended to Four Years

The next elected mayor of the Town of Boone will serve a four-year term. The Boone Town Council unanimously voted to amend the town charter to extend the mayoral term from two years to four years at its April 16 monthly meeting.

No one signed up to speak at the public hearing on the mayoral term extension. The council passed an ordinance to amend the town charter, and the new term length will take effect with the November 2009 municipal election. The charter does not limit the number of terms a mayor can serve.

Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson was first elected to a two-year term in 2005 and re-elected to an additional term in 2007. She said she intends to run for re-election this November. Clawson spoke in favor of the mayoral term extension at the March council meeting.

“I think, really, two years just gives you a time to really get your feet wet,” Clawson said on Monday. “Then you have to turn right around and have to run again.”

She said the financial burden of running an election campaign every two years is also an issue.

“Many mayoral terms right now are four years,” she said. “I really believe it on principle rather than [for] myself.”

Elections for three of the five town council seats are held every two years in Boone. The top two vote-getters receive four-year terms and the third highest vote-getter receives a two-year term.

Council member Janet Pepin was elected to a four-year term in 2005.

“When I first ran for town council, I felt sure I would only get a two-year term, and I thought that would be long enough,” Pepin said. “Now that I’ve been on for four years, with the amount of complicated issues that this town is facing, we really need someone with a long-term commitment to those issues,” she said, referring to the position of mayor.

“Two years is not enough,” she added.

Pepin said the mayor’s job is more than shaking hands and appearing at ribbon-cutting ceremonies. The mayor is responsible for educating the council and working with the town manager on town matters.

“There is a lot of knowledge required on important issues,” she said. “This is not a light job.”

In March, the council voted to schedule a public hearing on the extension of the mayoral term at the April meeting. The public hearing did not appear on the council agenda until the day of the April 16 meeting, however. Town Clerk Freida Van Allen said the public hearing was advertised in the April 1 edition of the Watauga Democrat but that she forgot to place it on the agenda.

Last year, the town changed the election method for town council members. The town previously conducted elections under the Nonpartisan Election and Runoff method, as specified in N.C. General Statutes §163-293. Municipal elections were held in October and, if no council member received a majority of votes for a particular council seat, a runoff election would be held in November.

Boone municipal elections will now be conducted according to the Nonpartisan Plurality method (N.C. General Statutes §163-292). Under this method, the council members who receive the highest number of votes will be declared elected to the available council seats—a majority of votes is not required. In the case of a tie, the board of elections will determine the winner by lot. Municipal elections will take place in November instead of October.

Mayoral Terms in the High Country

According to the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill, 223 municipalities in North Carolina have mayors that serve four-year terms, while 311 municipalities elect mayors for two-year terms. Here are the mayoral term lengths in several High Country towns.

Town / Term Length
Boone (after 2009 election) - 4 years
Blowing Rock - 2 years
Banner Elk - 2 years
Seven Devils - at pleasure of board
Beech Mountain - 2 years
Newland - 2 years
Jefferson - 4 years
West Jefferson - 4 years
Sparta - 4 years