Note: This story was last updated at 6:15 p.m.
If the proposed two-term limit was in place now, Jerry Creasey, the longest-serving Anderson County commissioner, could no longer serve.
Neither could Mark Alderson, who is in his fifth term; Chuck Fritts or Jerry White (both are in their fourth terms); or Whitey Hitchcock, Robert McKamey, or Tracy Wandell (all three are in their third terms).
Creasey is in his seventh term, according to information from the Anderson County Election Commission.
It’s not clear if Myron Iwanski would be term-limited at this point. Iwanski is in his sixth term, but those terms were interrupted by his service as interim Anderson County mayor from January 2011 to August 2012—after former mayor Rex Lynch resigned and before current mayor Terry Frank was elected. Whether Iwanski would be term-limited would depend upon whether term limits, assuming a two-term limit was enacted, were consecutive or lifetime limits.
Assuming Iwanski was term-limited, though, that would mean that eight of the 16 commissioners, or half of them, would be past their second term and not able to serve if a two-term limit were in place.
No term limits are in place now, and they can’t officially be proposed, debated, or recommended to voters until after the eight-member Anderson County Charter Commission is elected November 8. Whether they are even considered is likely to depend upon which candidates are elected. The Charter Commission is not obligated to consider term limits, but it will have the authority to do so. (See a story on the Charter Commission process here.)
There is a slate of candidates campaigning to enact term limits, possibly two terms each for the Anderson County mayor and Anderson County commissioners. The candidates who have proposed term limits have said they think term limits could help get more young people involved in county government.
During a forum in Clinton last week, Floyd Grisham, a Charter Commission candidate who has also run for County Commission in District 1 (Claxton, Bull Run), said he supports two four-year terms. People get into office, and they get “stagnant,” Grisham said.
But White, a commissioner from District 5 (Dutch Valley, Marlow, Norwood) and a Charter Commission candidate, disagreed.
“I’ve been on the commission 12 years,” White said. “I’ve never missed a meeting.”
The public always knows “where he stands on issues,” White said.
Jim Cooper, a Charter Commission candidate in District 2 in Clinton, said he also supports term limits.
“All you’ve got to do is look at Washington, D.C.,” Cooper said during last week’s forum.
There are people on Anderson County Commission who have served about 30 years, and the younger generation needs to get involved, Cooper said.
“I’ve heard good young people say they want to run for Commission but say, ‘I can’t beat that guy, he’s been there for 20 years,'” Cooper said.
But those who have urged caution on enacting term limits in Anderson County, at least for county commissioners, have said that the job is part-time and essentially a volunteer position, with a relatively low salary of $540 per month.
Anderson County Commissioner Steve Mead, a Charter Commission candidate in District 6 in Oak Ridge, has argued that a two-term limit would mean that, at any given time, about half of commissioners would be new, still in their first term, and the other half, who would be in their second term, would know that they couldn’t be re-elected, no matter how they vote.
“The real question is whether the government should prohibit the voters from re-electing a high-performing commissioner they really like and trust,” Mead said during a forum in Oak Ridge this month. He said there have been 14 new commissioners since 2010.
Others have argued that Anderson County already has term limits in the form of elections every four years. They have also raised concerns about whether there would always be enough candidates for County Commission seats if commissioners were term-limited.
Hoping to provide some data to voters, Oak Ridge Today requested information from the Anderson County Election Commission about the average number of candidates per County Commission seat per election going back 20 years, as well as the number of terms served by each commissioner.
Here’s some of what we learned: Six of the eight County Commission districts have at least one commissioner still in his or her first or second term, which is less than the two-term limit proposed during this Charter Commission campaign. One district, District 3 (Andersonville, Norris), has two commissioners who are both in their first term: County Commission Chair Steve Emert and Commissioner Philip Warfield.
Other districts that have a first-term commissioner include:
- District 4 (Rocky Top, Briceville)—Shain Vowell;
- District 7 (Highland View, Pine Valley, Glenwood)—Theresa Scott; and
- District 8 (Emory Valley, Hendrix Creek, Woodland)—Phil Yager.
Other districts that don’t have a first-term commissioner but do have a second-term commissioner include:
- District 2 (Clinton)—Rick Meredith; and
- District 6 (Oak Ridge City Hall, Robertsville, West Hills)—Steve Mead.
The two districts that don’t have a first-term or second-term commissioner are District 1 (Fritts, Wandell) and District 5 (McKamey, White).
Oak Ridge Today was curious about the average number of candidates per County Commission seat per election. Here is some of what we learned based on the Anderson County Election Commission records and our own stories.
Creasey, the longest-serving commissioner, faced competition in the August 2014 election, when there were six candidates, the most of any of the eight County Commission districts that year. Creasey won easily, receiving 803 votes. The closest challenger was Scott, with 531 votes. (Both were elected; Anderson County Commission has two commissioners per district.)
The other four challengers all received fewer than 400 votes, or less than half as many as Creasey.
The August 2014 election was closer in District 1, where Fritts and Wandell faced two competitors, but not close in District 5, where McKamey and White also had two challengers.
More information from the Anderson County Election Commission is below. It shows that the elections for the seats held by the longest-serving commissioners have generally been competitive, at least in terms of having more candidates than seats available. That would be a minimum of three candidates for each of the two seats. Creasey has had competition in each election going back to 1998. Iwanski has been in a field of three people running for two County Commission seats in all six of his elections. Alderson has had challengers in four of his five elections, with the 2014 election being an exception.
The other commissioners with more service—Fritts, McKamey, Wandell, and White—have all run in a field of more than two competitors in each one of their elections, according to the Election Commission information.
It’s not clear how the number of candidates per seat per election might change if term limits were in place.
There are a few notes to this information. First, Shain Vowell and Phil Yager were both elected in the August 2016 special election. Vowell is filling the unexpired term of Zach Bates, and Yager is filling the unexpired term of Robin Biloski. Vowell had no competition this August, and Yager competed against two other people, including Angeleque McNutt, who was appointed to Biloski’s former seat in August 2015.
Second, there are some unusual terms among those included below, including for Iwanski and Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank. Frank’s first two-year term started after a special election in August 2012, and it was to fill the unexpired term of Rex Lynch. Frank took over for Iwanski, who had served as interim mayor between January 2011 and Frank’s election in August 2012. Frank was elected to her first full four-year term in August 2014, and she would still be within the two-term limit.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See our previous story on the Charter Commission campaign here.
See a PDF version of the spreadsheet below by clicking here.
|Office||District||First Name||Last Name||Precinct||Number of Terms Served||Number of Candidates in Elections|
|County Commission||1||Chuck||Fritts||Bull Run, Claxton||4||4||4||4||5|
|County Commission||1||Tracy||Wandell||Bull Run, Claxton||3||4||4||4|
|County Commission||2||Mark||Alderson||Clinton, North Clinton, South Clinton||5||2||4||4||8||6|
|County Commission||2||Rick||Meredith||Clinton, North Clinton, South Clinton||2||2||4|
|County Commission||3||Steve||Emert||Andersonville, Fairview, Glen Alpine, Norris||1||5|
|County Commission||3||Philip||Warfield||Andersonville, Fairview, Glen Alpine, Norris||1||5|
|County Commission||4||Tim||Isbel||Briceville, Clinton Middle, Lake City Middle, Rocky Top, Rosedale||2||4||5|
|County Commission||4||Shain||Vowell||Briceville, Clinton Middle, Lake City Middle, Rocky Top, Rosedale||1|
|County Commission||5||Robert||McKamey||Clinton High, Dutch Valley, Marlow, Norwood||3||4||3||4|
|County Commission||5||Jerry||White||Clinton High, Dutch Valley, Marlow, Norwood||4||4||3||4||7|
|County Commission||6||Whitey||Hitchcock||Oak Ridge City Hall, Robertsville, West Hills||3||4||3||2|
|County Commission||6||Steve||Mead||Oak Ridge City Hall, Robertsville, West Hills||2||4||3|
|County Commission||7||Jerry||Creasey||Glenwood, Highland View, Pine Valley||7||6||3||3||3||4||2|
|County Commission||7||Theresa||Scott||Glenwood, Highland View, Pine Valley||1||6|
|County Commission||8||Myron||Iwanski||Emory Vally, Hendrix Creek, Woodland||6||3||3||3||3||3||3|
|County Commission||8||Phil||Yager||Emory Vally, Hendrix Creek, Woodland||1|
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