Politicians in Big Spring will have to accomplish their goals within two terms on the city council, as voters approved an amendment to the municipal charter to place term limits on local elected officials.
The proposition — which was brought to the voters via a petition championed by the local Concerned Citizens Council — got the nod from local voters Saturday with 765 ballots (64.34 percent) in favor of the measure and 424 ballots (35.66 percent) against it.
According to city officials, the amendment provides that council members may only run for two consecutive terms in one position, then must sit out one election before running again for the same position.
City Attorney Linda Sjogren, who was charged with interpreting the amendment presented to the city with the petition, said council members may run for any other position than the one they currently hold if their term is expiring or if they are within the last year of their term, without sitting out a term.
Also, council members cannot be elected to fill a vacancy (unexpired term) in any position on the council within six years of having served in any position on the council.
Some local residents have embraced the idea of term limits in hopes of ousting “career politicians” sitting on the city council. Others, however, have shown sharp opposition to the measure, saying it is a violation of voters' rights to say who can and can not be elected based on arbitrary term limitations.
Following the tone set during November's general election, Saturday was not a good night to be an incumbent in this year's municipal elections, with challengers walking away with both the District 1 and District 3 seats on the Big Spring City Council.
District 1 challenger Marcus Fernandez ousted longtime councilwoman Stephanie Horton in the election, taking 136 ballots (70.10 percent). Horton emerged with just 58 ballots (29.9 percent) in the contest. Saturday night's result come in very sharp contrast to the previous District 1 election, when Horton edged out the challenger with a single vote, 33 ballots to Fernadez's 32 ballots.
Fernandez said Saturday night he is appreciative of the community's support, and while he is certainly savoring the win, there's plenty of hard work to be done.
“I'm very excited. I'm a little short for words right now,” Fernandez said. “I'm so grateful to the voters who got out and cast their ballots in this election, and I feel it is going to be a change for the better. God blessed me with this win, but I really feel like now the really hard work begins.”
The race for the District 3 seat on the council wasn't much closer, with challenger Glen Carrigan unseating incumbent Joann Staulcup by taking 170 ballots (56.86 percent) of the vote. Staulcup came in second in the contest with 109 ballots (36.45 percent), while challenger Shannon Thomas only manager to garner 18 ballots (6.02 percent). Write-in candidate Oscar Velasco also didn't fare well in the contest, with just two ballots (.67 percent) in the election.
Because Carrigan was able to defeat the other candidates in the race by more than 50 percent, no runoff election will be required, according to election officials.
Carrigan did not immediately return a phone message left at his home.