Term limits force Aspen school board member out of race
August 18, 2011
ASPEN – Aspen school board member Fred Peirce will not run for re-election in November after learning this week that he was not legally allowed to run for the term he is currently serving.
Peirce served on the Aspen Board of Education from 1997 to 2005, before term limits forced him out of office. Peirce was off the board for one election cycle before being re-elected in an uncontested 2007 campaign. The Colorado Constitution states, however, that for terms to be considered nonconsecutive, there must be a four-year gap in between.
“Well, it was surprising to learn, because to most of us, once you’re off a board, you’re off a board. … It’s no longer consecutive,” said Peirce, who is an attorney, adding that he made his decision not to seek re-election after talking with the school district’s attorney. “I’d say it’s a little-known – or not well-understood – part of the state Constitution concerning term limits. But know that we now, I could not legally, nor ethically, choose to run for re-election.”
Peirce and his fellow BOE members learned of the election issue while doing research on term limits; the board will discuss whether to seek voter approval to change term limits at its meeting Monday.
Peirce will serve out the remainder of his current term. He is not required to step down, nor can any decisions he has made during his nearly four years in office be contested. Under state law, anyone who wanted to appeal the legitimacy of Peirce’s election to office would have needed to file a protest within 10 days of the election; after that, the court has no jurisdiction to remove someone from office or challenge the decisions made by that person.
“I don’t think the past election issue is of great concern; there was no real controversy there,” Peirce noted. “But personally, I am disappointed about not being able to seek re-election. At first I was ambivalent about another term, but once I made the decision to run, I was quite prepared to serve another term.”
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Of greater concern to Peirce is the composition of the BOE in the coming years – years that are likely to be challenging for school districts across the nation, and in Aspen.
Two seats are currently up for election in November, Peirce’s and the one occupied by Laura Kornasiewicz, who also cannot seek re-election due to term limits.
In fact, it is term limits that could create an interesting scenario for the Aspen school board.
In 2013, term limits will force Charla Belinski and Elizabeth Parker to leave the board. Bob Glah could run for re-election in 2013.
Thus, the current best-case scenario down the road – if institutional memory is an important foundation for success – would be a board comprising one member with four years’ experience (Glah, if re-elected), two members with two years’ experience, and two members with no experience. Conversely, the board could ultimately comprise three new members and two members with only two years’ experience in 2014.
“Neither scenario, in my mind, is a very good thing. But what can you do?” Peirce said.
As of Wednesday, three people have thrown their hats in the ring to replace Peirce and Kornasiewicz: Shelia Wills, Carmen Dowley and Sandra Peirce, Fred’s wife.
Wills and Dowley have turned in nomination petitions, though signatures have not been verified completely yet. Sandra Peirce decided to run for office after her husband’s campaign came to a quick end.
“She is serious about this; this is about Sandra and not me,” Fred Peirce said, adding that his wife was out of the country on Wednesday. “This is something that has always interested her, and the schools are something she’s always been very involved with.
“My not being able to run made her realize it’s her time to run for office.”
Others can still join the race. Candidates must submit nomination petitions, with the signatures of 50 valid registered voters, by Aug. 26 for inclusion in the Nov. 1 election. Petitions are available through the district office.