LEWISTON — Elected officials will serve staggered two-year terms, if voters in November approve the amendment to the city charter that was approved unanimously Tuesday evening by the City Council.

The council considered 10 amendments to the charter proposed by the Charter Review Committee, headed by former City Administrator Ed Barrett. The council supported nine of the 10 proposals — eight unanimously. The lone proposal that was rejected was the move to lower the age eligibility to run for elected office in Lewiston from 20 to 18.

Only four of the seven councilors were in attendance Tuesday. Safiya Khalid of Ward 1 and Alicia Rea of Ward 3 had excused absences, while Zachary Pettengill recently resigned his Ward 2 seat.

Most attention was spent on the idea of staggering the terms of elected officials to limit the potential of a wholesale turnover of councilors or School Committee members in a single election. The charter committee presented the council with two options — two-year staggered terms where half of both boards would be up for election every year or four-year staggered terms where elections would be held every other year.

School Committee member Kiernan Majerus-Collins said he saw benefits with both plans. Two-year terms would allow elections during presidential and state elections, which would increase voter turnout. The four-year terms would provide officials with more independence and do what they think is right instead of worrying about the next election in two years.

Luke Jensen of Ward 5 and Michel Lajoie of Ward 4 thought a four-year term was too long.


Councilor Lee Clement of Ward 6 wondered if the council could make such a major change without convening an elected charter commission. Auburn recently considered a similar plan, but shelved the idea because of legal concerns.

Barrett said a recent court opinion appears to allow the city to make the change with an amendment instead of requiring a revision, which would trigger the need for a charter commission.

“A two-year stagger would not make a significant change that would require a charter commission,” Barrett said.

He added that it would not change the role of the mayor, City Council, School Committee or the county administrator. Nor would it add at-large seats, which would likely trigger the need for an elected commission.

If approved by voters in November, the staggered elections would include the mayor, three councilors and four School Committee members in one year, and four councilors, the at-large School Committee member, and the three remaining School Committee members the following year.

The Charter Review Committee had mixed feelings on the proposal to lower the eligibility age of candidates from 20 to 18, Barrett said. The council did not like the proposal.


“I don’t think they have the life experiences to serve in office and make the decisions that must be made,” said Jensen, who at age 30, is one of the younger councilors.

Councilor Stephanie Gelinas of Ward 7 agreed. She added there was much disparity in the age requirements for voting, buying alcohol and military service.

The board indefinitely postponed the proposal, which effectively kills it.

Another amendment dealt with the forfeiture of office for the mayor, City Council, School Committee, as well as the Planning Board, Board of Appeals and Finance Committee members, who are all appointed by the mayor.

The there is no enforcement mechanism in the charter. Forfeiture of office would be for a conviction, while in office, of a crime or an offense involving moral turpitude. A hearing would be held and removal would require a two-thirds vote of the council.

The original proposal included a provision to allow an elected official who moves out of the ward with less than 12 months remaining in the term to stay on, but Clement objected. “We should not allow people who move to continue serving,” he said.


The council voted unanimously to delete that provision.

The only amendment that received a no vote was a housekeeping measure that made some technical changes. Jensen objected to one provision to prevent school employees from serving on the City Council. But his colleagues opposed allowing any city, school employee or appointed official from holding elected office.

“When it comes to the budget, it is a potential bias situation,” Mayor Mark Cayer said.

“It’s not just about conflict, but the appearance of conflict,” Clement added.

The other amendments adopted by the council included adding a preamble to the charter, clarifying the mayor’s and council’s role in appointing ad hoc committees and changing the term length for the Planning Board and the Board of Appeals from five years to three, but allow three full terms. Also, Planning Board members now would require confirmation by the council.

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