Oak Lawn voters spoke loud and clear Tuesday overwhelmingly approving a binding referendum that limits the terms a village board member can serve.
The referendum won by a landslide. With all of the village’s 41 precincts reporting, 4,691 voters, or 85 percent, supported the question, while 804 voters, 15 percent, voted against the measure. Only 16 percent of registered voters turned out but Mayor Sandra Bury wasn’t complaining.
“Aren’t the numbers beautiful?” Bury said Tuesday night. “I’m thrilled. Oak Lawn residents are awesome.”
Bury campaigned on term limits and said they will ensure that fresh faces assume positions in village leadership.
The term limits take effect after the April 2015 municipal election and limit to three the number of consecutive terms the mayor, village clerk and trustees can serve in a single position.
A trustee could run for clerk or mayor, for example, after serving three terms on the village board. The term limits do not apply to school districts or the park board.
Veteran trustees Bob Streit, Alex Olejniczak and Carol Quinlan as well as Village Clerk Jane Quinlan are still eligible to serve another three terms if they run for office again.
Opponents of terms limits argue that incumbents can be removed from office on Election Day. But Bury said defeating an entrenched incumbent is not easily accomplished at the local level where voter turnout is typically low.
“Not enough people are voting,” she said. “People have to get it out of the mindset that you’re in political office for life.”
She added that three terms is sufficient time for an elected official to make a difference.
“This is a reasonable way to proceed,” Bury said. “It’s set up to be forward-thinking. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Trustee Mike Carberry, a proponent of term limits, said the referendum’s success in Oak Lawn will serve a model for other communities.
“It’s good. It gets more people involved in the process,” said Carberry, a first-term trustee.
The village board voted 4-2 to place the referendum on the ballot. Trustees Carol Quinlan and Bob Streit, political opponents of the mayor, voted against the referendum. Streit was elected to the board in 1991 and is the longest serving trustee.