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September 26, 2022

County Supervisors reject term limits

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected a proposal to set term limits on their positions, saying that the current system of letting voters decide who fills the seats is sufficient.

The proposal by 4th District Supervisor Greg Caput would have set a three-term cap on the elected position, although anyone who reached that limit could run again after waiting four years.

If the supervisors had approved the matter, it would have been placed on the November ballot.

Caput said that incumbents often have an unfair advantage during elections, with increased name recognition and ability to raise funds.

“(Term limits) have been proven successful at the state and federal level—and also the county and city level—to encourage participation by newcomers, and to diversify the representation of the voting public,” said Caput, who has elected to not run for his fourth term and will leave the board following the November election.

Supervisor Bruce McPherson, who oversees the 5th District, said that several California counties have similar policies and that he would be open to discussing the issue.

But 2nd District Supervisor Zach Friend said he didn’t see a need for the policy in a county where almost nobody serves more than three terms.

“In the last 170 years, there have been a total of four supervisors that have actually served, by my estimation, longer than these 12 years,” he said. “I don’t know that this is even an issue.”

Board Chair Manu Koenig, who beat out three-term incumbent John Leopold in 2020 for the 1st District seat, said the issue is already up to voters when a supervisor’s term expires. He also said that he is wary of creating a law when there is no existing problem.

“Ultimately, voters are happy to tell us when they’ve had enough of any of us,” he said. “And they have an opportunity to express those opinions in elections.” 

Aptos resident Becky Steinbrunner, who has twice run unsuccessfully for the 2nd District Supervisor seat, said she supported Caput’s proposal, explaining that voters deserve having their choice of candidates.

“Supervisor Koenig, you know how hard it is when you have a well-entrenched incumbent,” she said.

Tuesday’s vote was not the first time Caput has found himself at odds with his fellow supervisors as he sought to curtail the position. He has tried unsuccessfully several times to cap supervisor pay and benefits, and has donated portions of his own $134,710 paycheck to charity.

He also previously introduced a two-term limit, which also failed.

The term limits proposal failed 4-1. Caput was the lone vote in favor. 

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