NEW GLOUCESTER — Last May, voters approved term limits for the New Gloucester Selectboard that would seem to prohibit Council Chairwoman Linda Chase from seeking another term this year. But that hasn’t stopped Chase from taking out nomination papers for the upcoming election.
“Yes, allegedly I’m termed out,” said Chase, who was first elected to the board in 2007. Chase clarified that she used the word “allegedly” because the situation could possibly change if a citizen’s petition were submitted to roll back the term limits ordinance approved 66-44 at last year’s town meeting.
Chase said she understood why people wanted to institute the term limits last year but speculated that some people may now regret the move.
“There was some talk in the town about a people’s petition to reverse the term limits,” Chase said in an interview this week, adding that she wasn’t directly involved in any such effort and hadn’t heard recently if one had materialized.
“It has nothing to do with me, although I may benefit from it,” Chase said about a potential petition effort.
Town Clerk Sharlene Myers said that Chase was one of four people to take out nomination papers for the two Selectboard seats on the ballot, but has not yet returned those papers. The town’s deadline to return nomination papers is Friday, April 13.
Chase said she had not decided whether or not to return her nomination papers as she is “waiting to see if a people’s petition does or does not come in.”
“I haven’t decided what I’m going to do — is what it boils down to,” she added.
According to Myers, there is nothing prohibiting Chase from taking out papers and collecting signatures, but she would not be able to take the oath of office and serve another term under the current ordinance.
The Selectboard previously set a Friday, March 30 deadline for petitions in order to be considered at the upcoming May 7 town meeting. The town clerk’s office said that as of Friday afternoon, no citizen’s petition to overturn the term limit ordinance had been submitted.
The ordinance passed last year limited Selectboard service to three consecutive three-year terms, and members must be off the board for three years before they can run for it again.
Selectboard Member Stephen Hathorne, who helped spearhead the term limit ordinance last year, said there had been rumblings about a petition to overturn it about 6 months ago, but he hadn’t heard anything recently.
“I think it’s gone very quiet,” Hathorne said about the possibility of a petition, adding that if there were such an effort, “I think I definitely would have heard it.”
Hathorne is up for reelection this year, and Myers said he has taken out and submitted his nomination papers.
Selectboard Vice Chairman Steven Libby, who has spent two decades on the board and is currently set to be term-limited next year, spoke against the creation of term limits at last year’s town meeting. Libby said that elections already provide a chance for voters to select new representation and expressed concern that term limits might lead to fewer people serving in local public office.
“If that passes, next June, Linda will be all done,” Libby said ahead of the term limits vote last May. “And after a year without Linda, we’re going to want her back. I don’t know anyone who can pick up her work.”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
New Gloucester Selectboard Chairwoman Linda Chase, second from left, has taken out papers to run again despite being term-limited.