Terms of enforcement

So elected law enforcement officials in Mesa County want to ask voters this fall to extend their terms in office from two terms of four years each to three terms.

Good for them.

We’ll reiterate a point we made two years ago, when there was a measure on the Mesa County election ballot to entirely eliminate term limits for the county sheriff.

The job of sheriff, along with those of county coroner and district attorney, is not a political office in the conventional sense. The people elected to those offices don’t create laws or establish broad public policy. They must enforce the laws already on the books and they need specialized training and years of experience to perform their jobs well.

In short, they are professionals, running very complicated operations. The sheriff, especially, oversees scores of employees, operating a jail while also performing law enforcement and investigative duties.

By limiting any of these three positions to just eight years, the citizens of Mesa County shortchange themselves. They force out of office experienced and knowledgeable leaders just when they may be putting their knowledge and experience to most effective use.

The two-term limits also discourage other qualified people from seeking election to the positions.

Of course, if any of the people in those positions are performing poorly, voters would still have the opportunity to vote them out of office, even with a three-term limit.

We would prefer to see no term limits for these offices, allowing voters to decide whether to let the people elected to continue running the operations. But extending the allowable time in office from eight years to 12 is a step in the right direction.

This isn’t meant as a political endorsement of any of the three men currently holding the respective offices. We think Sheriff Stan Hilkey and District Attorney Pete Hautzinger are very good at their jobs. We’re less familiar with Coroner Dean Havlik, but have seen little reason to object to his operation of the office. However, if voters should see fit to extend the terms for all three offices, and if these men choose to seek re-election, we’ll evaluate them and their opponents at that time.

We do hope voters in Mesa County will give them the chance to seek third terms. Other counties have extended terms for these offices, or eliminated them altogether. Voters in those counties recognize that it makes little sense to tell people who are running highly successful law enforcement operations to hit the road after eight years.


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