Council to serve as Charter Review Committee

Zephyrhills City Council cited a lack of citizen interest as the primary reason the five elected will solely serve as the city’s Charter Review Committee.

In a publicized workshop session Monday, with no citizens expressing interest in being part of the charter committee, members of city council advised city attorney Matt Maggard to draft a resolution naming city council as the charter review committee that will make recommendations to edit the city charter.

Charter amendments approved by the committee would be placed on the ballot next April for voters to cast “yes” or “no” votes.

The city charter hasn’t been amended in nearly a decade and the city gone through changes. The most obvious changes needed to the charter are related to the city’s fire service which is now contracted with Pasco County.

Additionally, council addressed increasing the powers of the mayor to where the he or she could be given voting power to break a tie and make a quorum when only two members are in attendance.

Topics that didn’t seem to gain traction were council elections for seats in single member districts, increasing the number of council members and term limits.

City Manager Billy Poe expressed his concerns for term limits.

“We see how many people show up for our council meetings,” Poe said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a good turnout. Our pool of interested citizens is not the largest. We haven’t had a contested election in three years, which is good.

“My concern is there we get to a point where a council member terms out and no one wants to run. What do we do then?”

As the charter review committee, it seems unlikely that council would put term limits on the ballot.

“In reality, being defeated in an election is natural term limits,” said Council President Jodi Wilkeson. “When you have to run for your seat and knock on 1,200 doors asking their votes and if someone else is willing to do that, and then they have the right to serve on the council too.”

Councilman Ken Burgess, who has ran unopposed for every election in the last 11 years, said the first term as a councilman is mainly a time to get properly brought up to speed on city issues.

“You get up to speed in that first term,” Burgess said. “If you have term limits, then you get one more term and you’re done.”

Lance Smith, who was also in agreement that now is not a time to add term limits to the city charter, said the decision will appear “self serving.”

“It causes problems in Tallahassee,” Smith said. “It will be perceived as self serving for us not to put term limits on there.”

“Well, that person can run if that’s how they feel,” replied Councilman Charlie Proctor.

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