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Brookhaven Town wants to ask voters to extend term length, limit number

The proposed referendum would extend officials' terms to four years instead of two, but impose three-term limits.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, seen here on May

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, seen here on May 30, said longer terms, and term limits, "would ensure that there would be a transition of power,"  Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Brookhaven officials want to double the length of terms for the town supervisor and other elected officials, and limit the number of years they can serve.

Terms for supervisor, council members and superintendent of highways would be increased from two years to four years if voters approve a referendum in November. The change would not apply to the town clerk and tax receiver, who already serve four-year terms.

All elected officials would be limited to three terms — a total of 12 years — if the referendum is approved.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said longer terms, and term limits, would prevent town officials from establishing "an institutional dynasty." Romaine, who won a special election in 2012, has been in office for six years.

“It would ensure that there would be a transition of power," Romaine, a Republican, said of the changes. "It would ensure that there would be turnover. ... It will be an incentive to get things done earlier in a term.”

Most elected officials in Brookhaven are Republicans, including Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro and four of six council members. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright is a Democrat, and Councilwoman Jane Bonner is a registered Conservative.

Of Long Island's 13 town supervisors, eight serve two-year terms and five serve four-year terms. All towns except Brookhaven have four-year terms for council members. Most towns do not impose term limits.

Brookhaven officials had served four-year terms from 1959 to about 2002, when voters approved a switch to a ward system, in which council members represent specific sections of the town. Romaine said the 2002 referendum reduced terms for most elected officials to two years. 

A referendum this year would help settle the question of whether voters want shorter or longer terms, and term limits, Romaine said.

Some Brookhaven civic leaders said they supported the move to extend terms and impose limits on elected service.

"It would be better if they didn’t have to spend their two years in office campaigning for the next term," said Roy Reynolds, president of the East Moriches Property Owners Association, adding limiting terms "makes sense to me. You don’t want to get too much of a career politician in there.”

Jonathan Kornreich, president of the Three Village Civic Association, said he supported the move because, “the power of incumbency makes it difficult for change to occur.”

But MaryAnn Johnston, president of Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organizations, questioned the timing of the referendum, saying it may distract voters and civic leaders from elections for federal and state offices. She said Brookhaven voters have previously rejected referendums calling for longer town terms.

“I’m a little bit confused why they think it might fly now,” Johnston said. “I think the voters will say, 'We like to throw the bums out every two years.' ”

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Aug. 2 at Brookhaven Town Hall. 

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