Mayor, city councilman speak on possible term limit referendum

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 10:23 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told Action News 5 he’s “seriously considering” running for another term if voters make it possible.

Right now, the mayor and Memphis City Council members can only serve two terms. But that could change in the next election.

On Tuesday, May 24, the council approved a resolution that puts a term limit referendum on the August 4 ballot.

Council members and the mayor are term limited to two, four-year terms. If voters approve the referendum, those politicians would be allowed to serve three terms, a total of 12 years in office.

Action News 5 Political Analyst Michael Nelson said he thinks it’s going to be a tough sell convincing Memphis voters to extend the terms of the city’s top elected leaders.

“This is a power grab, quite frankly, by members of the city council who just want to hang on to their jobs,” Nelson said. “And they’re giving Mayor Strickland a shot as well because they think that will make the voter referendum more appealing.”

But Councilman Martavius Jones said it takes time to get up to speed on the legislative process and to learn how best to help your constituents.

“I look at my first four years and I say I was on a steep learning curve,” he told Action News 5. “I’m still learning the planning and zoning process, and that impacts our land use and tax revenue.”

Jones sponsored the resolution to extend the current two term limit to three terms. He did not include the Mayor’s office.

“As the maker of the motion, Mayor Strickland never reached out to me to say ‘Councilman Jones would you consider including the mayor on this?’” said Jones. “And city council positions are part-time jobs with that steep learning curve. The mayor’s job is full-time.”

Councilman Dr. Jeff Warren pushed for the Mayor’s position to be added to the referendum. He said he’s worried about the city’s financial future with inflation, gas prices and the war in Ukraine taking a toll on the national economy.

“I think we need the experience of Mayor Strickland,” Warren told Action News 5. “I want someone in the city to be there that I think is going to be a steady hand and can guide Memphis through what I think could be potentially some very troubling times.”

Mayor Strickland on the possibility of serving a third term told Action News 5:

“Serving in this role for nearly two terms has been the honor of my life, and there is still much to be accomplished. For the last several weeks, this idea has been discussed for council  members, and I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. Now it applies to mayor. Over the next several days, my family and I will seriously consider the opportunity.”

An opportunity that Michael Nelson predicts may not materialize.

“I think it’ll be a high turnout in August. In which case,” said Nelson. “I think it’s even more likely the vote on this referendum will be no.”

Voters approved term limits in 2008. They voted down extending the limit in 2018.

Five of the 13 city council members, including Councilman Jones, are nearing the end of their final terms if the referendum doesn’t pass in August.

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