.Supes to Stick with Current Term System

Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors reject proposal to set term limits on their positions

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 9 rejected a proposal to set term limits on their positions, saying that the current system of letting voters decide who fills the seats is sufficient.

The proposal by 4th District Supervisor Greg Caput would have set a three-term cap on the elected positions, although anyone who reached that limit could run again after waiting four years.

If the supervisors had approved the cap, it would have been placed on the November ballot.

Caput said that incumbents often have an unfair advantage during elections, with increased name recognition and ability to raise funds.

“[Term limits] have been proven successful at the state and federal level—and also the county and city level—to encourage participation by newcomers, and to diversify the representation of the voting public,” said Caput, who has elected to not run for his fourth term, and will leave the board following the November election.

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Supervisor Bruce McPherson, who oversees the 5th District, said that several California counties have similar policies, and that he would be open to discussing the issue.

But 2nd District Supervisor Zach Friend said he didn’t see a need for the policy in a county where almost nobody serves more than three terms.

“In the last 170 years, there have been a total of four supervisors that have actually served, by my estimation, longer than these 12 years,” he said. “I don’t know that this is even an issue.”

The term limits proposal failed 4-1. Caput was the lone vote in favor. 

Board Chair Manu Koenig, who beat out three-term incumbent John Leopold in 2020 for the 1st District seat, said voters already have the option to remove supervisors when their terms expire. He also said he is wary of creating a law when there is no existing problem.

“Ultimately, voters are happy to tell us when they’ve had enough of any of us,” he said. “And they have an opportunity to express those opinions in elections.” 

Tuesday’s vote was not the first time Caput has found himself at odds with his fellow supervisors as he sought to curtail the position. He previously introduced a two-term limit, which also failed. He has tried unsuccessfully several times to cap supervisor pay and benefits, and has donated portions of his own $134,710 paycheck to charity.

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