JCC Sups vote to return to staggered election cycle

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The James City County Board of Supervisors. From left to right; Chair Michael Hipple, Sue Sadler, Kevin Onizuk, Ruth Larson, and John McGlennon. (Courtesy James City County)

At a meeting Tuesday night, the James City County Board of Supervisors held a vote about voting.

The Board voted 3-2 to move to a staggered election cycle for Board positions. In 2014, the Board voted to hold each district election simultaneously, but reversed that decision with Tuesday’s vote.

“James City County operates better with a staggered election cycle for the Board of Supervisors for three compelling reasons: organized transitions, institutional knowledge, and stability,” said local resident Penny Pulley, who spoke during the Board’s public hearing Tuesday.

Pulley made the argument that if all five Supervisors were ousted at once, then the incoming Board would struggle to finish the work of their predecessors due to the leadership transition and lack of experience.

“If everybody gets kicked out, it’s because you deserve to get kicked out,” said county resident Chris Henderson, who was in favor of simultaneous — or quadrennial — elections.

Redistricting was a cause for concern in the discussion, especially for those who made the case for simultaneous elections. The five districts are redrawn every decade, and according to Henderson, in some instances residents who have been redistricted may go up to six years without voting for a Supervisor if elections are staggered.

“Where you live shouldn’t determine when you get to vote,” said Jay Everson, resident of James City County.

Kevin Onizuk and Sue Sadler were the two Supervisors who voted against the motion. Ozinuk agreed that continuity is important, but county administrators, department heads, and staff would provide more than enough continuity even if the entire Board was voted out in one election.

“There are good arguments for both sides,” said Onizuk.  “I’m certainly not walking out of here tonight thinking that it was a loss for citizens.”

This was the fourth vote on Board election terms since 2011.

Staggered terms had been in place from 1979 through 2011, when a vote instituted quadrennial terms. A vote in 2012 reinstalled staggered terms, and yet another vote in 2014 reversed the 2012 vote. Quadrennial terms had not yet gone into effect before Tuesday’s vote, according to JCC General Registrar Dianna Moorman.

Before the meeting Moorman said, “I will see what they decide and will hold an election accordingly.”

As a result of the vote, Jamestown and Powhattan districts will vote for their Supervisor in 2017.  Stonehouse, Berkeley and Roberts will hold their elections in 2019.

Adrienne Berard contributed reporting.