County Executive George Latimer would like to see Westchester further restrict the time he, and his successors, can serve.
Latimer has submitted an “unusual” proposal to the Board of Legislators that would limit four-year terms to two from three, meaning county executives would be able to stay in office for a maximum of eight, instead of 12, years.
This is not a change in overall philosophy, the Democrat insisted Monday, Nov. 18, because Westchester enacted term limits for legislators and county executives way back in 2011.
Latimer, saying that the legislation does not contain any “grandfather” clause, emphasized he will be the “first, but not the last” county executive to honor it.
Latimer was elected in 2017 after defeating incumbent Republican Rob Astorino.
“Eight years is a period of time most common where executive term limits apply, and I think it is a defensible change,” said the Democrat, who has held a number of public positions, including as a member of the state Senate, representing the 37th District.
He has also served on Rye’s City Council, as a county legislator, and in the state Assembly.
In making the announcement in White Plains, Latimer referenced Washington’s latest kurfuffle over “relative authority.”
“I think what we’re seeing now is a need for a more robust balance between the executive branch and the legislative branch,” he said, adding that checks and balances on power ensure that the “best decisions are made on the broadest possible input and with the greatest amount of thoughtfulness.”
Term limits also create a steady, fresh supply of elected leaders, he said.
They encourage younger, minority and other aspirants to run for office by lowering the hurdle they need to leap in order to defeat well-entrenched incumbents.
Greater voter turnout, particularly in local elections, will occur “if people feel there is a real race going on and their votes can count,” Latimer said in a separate statement.
Among the advantages over the legislative branch? The executive has the power to hire and fire, for instance. Which means you can punish and reward in ways no one legislator can. The executive’s agenda is in the public’s spotlight.
But it’s in the Legislature where the diversity of constituents is best reflected.
There are 17 county legislators; nine are women, eight are men and six are “people of color”—a representative “body that looks like Westchester,” Latimer noted.
“No one executive can represent more than a handful of those demographics by themselves,” he said.
The time is ripe to “make this move” because the county executive’s office and legislators are enjoying “a good relationship right now,” Latimer said, adding: “We’re not doing this in a moment of crisis.”
Answering a reporter’s question at his news conference, Latimer said he has a sense that there is “general” support for the proposal.
It will not affect county legislators, who will still be able to serve a maximum of six two-year terms.
Latimer said the move is “consistent” with other things he has done, such as taking the county executive’s name off signs at parks and on public buildings.
He thought that that “statement was necessary to make because we were trying to re-direct the way the county government operates …” not around the agenda of a particular person or party, “but around certain principles.”
Latimer said he’s “very aware” of what’s been happening – politically – in the county over the last three years.
The Democrats have had, he said, “a lot of success. But you can’t misread that to assume that we have acted unilaterally with that success.”
“We have worked cooperatively across the aisle with the Republicans in local office and on the county Board of Legislators.”
Working together for the common good is something the Founding Fathers intended, said Latimer.
But, his life experience and his turns in various public offices, have led him to believe that what’s needed “right now, at this moment in America, is the willingness of elected officials to act with self-restraint, rather than saying “I have all the power to do this, so I’m just going to do this,” Latimer said.
“When you drive your car every day, you know it can probably go 100 miles per hour, if you put pedal to the metal. Aside from the fact that you’ll get pulled over and get a big fat speeding ticket, you know that the road conditions do not allow you to drive beyond a certain speed. Common sense tells you that the capacity to go to a certain speed is not wise.”