I remember way back in 1963 when I was studying the U.S. Constitution in the eighth grade, I asked my mother about the reasons behind the 22nd Amendment, the one that limits the president of the United States to only two terms in office.
Sure, I remembered the tradition established by George Washington back at the very beginning of our nation and how he stepped down after two terms. But his decision was voluntary; and the law forces this one.
I pushed my textbook back on the dinner table, wrinkling the green plastic tablecloth, and said, “Mom, if the president is doing a good job and the people want to elect him again and again, why wouldn’t we want to keep him in office, even after two terms?”
“You’re much too young to remember, son,” my mother said, “but it’s because of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was elected president four times in a row after the Great Depression.”
“So what’s wrong with that?” I asked.
“Well,” mom said with a grin, “the problem is FDR was so popular, if he were alive today, he’d still be the president.”
Now don’t get me wrong — I understand the basic anti good-old-boy/career politician argument for term limits, but I don’t accept it. I don’t see any good reason for a law to force politicians out of office if the people want them to serve. Why would we the people want to limit our ability to put whomever we want in office whenever we want for however long we want? Why do we want to legislate away our right to elect the officials we want to represent us? Why would we want to limit our choices? I just don’t get it. Which brings me to a day in the not so distant future right here in good old Lassen County.
My, oh my, there are big changes coming next month to the Lassen County Board of Supervisors – the departure of District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle and District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman. Chris Gallagher succeeds Pyle and David Teeter succeeds Chapman. That leaves Aaron Albaugh, a relative rookie just beginning his second term, as the senior supervisor on the board.
Both Pyle and Chapman were in office when I arrived for my first day of work at the Lassen County Times back in May 1999, and the county will lose all their institutional memory as others take their seats.
I don’t agree with every decision these supervisors and the board have made during the 18 years I’ve been in town. If I were the king of Lassen County, I would have ordained we move in many different directions.
Now neither Pyle nor Chapman has said anything about the local voters’ recent decision to impose term limits (three terms, 12 years) on the supervisors. Even though that restriction would not apply to them until they were elected to serve another three terms, I suspect they may have decided to retire based heavily upon that decision by the voters.
Make no mistake — every political leader can be replaced, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with new leaders taking office and bringing in new ideas and new perspectives. I’m sure Lassen County will survive and prosper. I’m excited about the future, and I wish the new supervisors every success as they assume office.
But having said that, I want to take a moment to say thank you to both Pyle and Chapman for their many years of service to the people of Lassen County as we turn the page and open a new chapter in county governance. For good or ill, depending upon your perspective, these two veteran supervisors are the last of their kind we’re likely to ever see.
Pyle and Chapman attend their last official meeting today, Tuesday, Dec. 20.