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Redmond city voters eye term limits, anti-nepotism rules

Redmond city sign
Creative Commons
In Central Oregon, Redmond voters are being asked to consider changes to the city's charter in the May, 2024 election

Power couples need not apply to the Redmond City Council if voters approve one of three proposed changes to the city’s charter appearing on the May ballot.

This trio of measures would reshape who leads a fast-growing Central Oregon city as it seeks to develop more water supplies, infrastructure and housing. Redmond’s population has nearly tripled since 2000. Two proposed charter changes would limit how long local elected leaders can serve, and one would prevent immediate family members from holding office at the same time.

Redmond City Councilor Clifford Evelyn hopes all three ballot measures pass, and that they stop history from repeating itself.

“The fact of the matter is we live in a small town, and small-town people know what they’re doing. They put people in places, back them, and then — they run the town,” Evelyn said.

One ballot measure would invite more turnover on the Redmond City Council via term limits, restricting councilors to two consecutive terms for a total of eight years. Former councilors could still run for mayor in the next election and could re-run for an open council seat in two years.

Another measure asks voters if this style of term limits should also apply to the mayor’s job, and if the mayor’s term should mirror those of councilors. This would allow the city’s top official to serve a lengthier four-year term, instead of the current two years.

Propositions like these have been realized in many other cities across the state. But, Redmond is also considering a third, more novel change.

If adopted, Measure 9-168 would ban certain immediate family members from serving on the City Council or as mayor at the same time. The rule would apply to spouses, domestic partners, parents and children, but not to siblings, city officials said.

This question goes to voters just a year after the retirement of former longtime mayor George Endicott, who led the city for 14 years while his wife, Krisanna Clark-Endicott, was elected to the Redmond City Council for four of those years. She came into the job in 2019 with her own resume of public service, including being elected as the mayor of Sherwood twice.

During the couple’s overlapping leadership of Redmond, they frequently butted heads with Ed Fitch, who served on the council alongside them. Now, Fitch is the mayor, and he has championed changing the city charter. Fitch said he felt like favoritism was an issue when an allied, powerful couple was at the city’s helm, and “more importantly, it is just a feeling that you don’t have seven independent voices.”

“It is not a personal beef,” Fitch said. “It just didn’t feel right.”

Endicott has publicly opposed any changes to the charter and dismissed the idea that his family dynamics were a problem.

“On multiple occasions we voted on opposite sides of an issue,” Endicott said.

He told OPB, “of course it’s personal,” that the current council members sent term limits and a family member ban to the ballot so soon after he and Clark-Endicott stepped down, and another longtime councilor, Jay Patrick, also retired.

Patrick spent 23 years in the role and was often aligned with Endicott.

The city owes much of its growth and success to a history of very long-serving leaders, Endicott said.

“The idea that you demand turnover at the top makes no sense,” he said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Since 2020, the Redmond City Council has gotten a makeover with mostly newer members now serving, such as Cat Zwicker.

She said she supports sending a family member ban to the ballot because of questions residents raised during the Endicott years, things like: “Is this fair? Does this give equal voice?”

“There are nepotism laws across all areas of government and across all areas of employment,” Zwicker said.

She supports the proposed term limits for city leaders, as well as lengthening the mayor’s term, but said she still isn’t sure how she’ll personally vote on banning familial relationships.

Councilor John Nielsen’s mind was more made up on that issue.

“Personally, I am going to be voting against it. To me, it doesn’t do what it’s intending to do. And if we were going to be serious about it, we’d have gone further with it,” he said.

To his thinking, business partners could be more likely to vote as a block than spouses.

He plans to vote in favor of the term limits, hoping they will encourage new people and fresh ideas to come to the table, without preventing experienced leaders from returning after a break.

Nielsen said he isn’t sure how he’ll land on expanding the mayor’s term, however.

“I still have to chew on it,” he said. “Four years of somebody I agree with is great, but four years of somebody I disagree with, am I going to be OK with that?”

The majority of Oregon cities — nearly 70% — elect their mayor every two years. The rest have four-year terms. But, that ratio flips for the most populated cities in the state. A majority of urban centers keep their mayors around for four-year terms. That’s according to datafrom the Oregon League of Cities, which has compiled information from 242 city charters.

Spokesperson Kevin Toon said in an email that the organization is “not aware of any cities that have the family member ban.”

City of Redmond, Ore. Mayor Ed Fitch speaks to the Oregon Water Resources Commission, Sept. 28, 2023.
Emily Cureton Cook /
City of Redmond, Ore. Mayor Ed Fitch speaks to the Oregon Water Resources Commission, Sept. 28, 2023.

Copyright 2024 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Emily Cureton Cook