Voters' voice is best term limit
Susan ClaryWhen Earl K. Wood was elected Orange County tax collector, Lyndon B. Johnson was president, a gallon of gas cost 30 cents and the University of Mississippi had only recently accepted its first African-American student. The year was 1964.
Published: November 1, 2012
Published: November 1, 2012
Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin was first elected to public office in 1968. He served as North Bay Village mayor and county commissioner of what was then Dade County before becoming clerk in 1992.
Apopka Mayor John H. Land was elected to the post in 1949 and served until 1968. He was re-elected in 1970. Next year, Land celebrates his 60th year in public office. He is the longest serving full-time mayor in the country.
Wood, who died recently at 96, was poised to win his 12th consecutive term in office. Thousands of people had already voted for him. His name remains on the ballot.
Local Democrats chose a state representative to replace him as the candidate.
Though he slowed down in recent years and often worked from home, few questioned the efficiency of his office and the value of his staff. Still, people wanted to abolish his office and demanded "term limits" whenever his name came up.
While some voters called Wood a lifelong public servant who fought for constituents and deserved re-election, others said he was a career politician who fed from the public trough. He earned $151,000 a year when he died and received retirement from the state.
Earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court gave citizens in all charter counties the power to impose term limits on county officials. Mark Twain once said: "Politicians and diapers must be changed often and for the same reason."
While it sounds like a good option to keep elected officials moving, one need only take a look at the Legislature to see that it doesn't work. Rather than giving us a cadre of fresh-faced honest and earnest new public officials every eight years, the power has shifted to the lobbyists who can easily manipulate inexperienced lawmakers.
Every year when elections roll around, we see that incumbency is a powerful force.
Critics argue that voters choose names that are familiar to them when they go to the polls. But how about the possibility that they feel comfortable with the institutional knowledge of their elected officials who are less likely to be controlled by special interests?
Critics don't give voters enough credit. Millions of dollars are now being spent in Florida on television, radio and Internet advertising, calling people and knocking on doors. Voters are more educated than ever.
Rest in peace, Earl K. Wood. Let's keep the power where it belongs — with the voter. The ballot box is still the best way to limit a politician's term.
Formerly a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times and Orlando Sentinel, Susan Clary is a freelance writer in Orlando. She can be reached at email@example.com.