Tigard City Council agrees on term limits

Tigard Mayor Jason Snider
Tigard Mayor Jason Snider
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Snider ineligible for re-election in November

After serving for 12 consecutive years, Tigard’s elected officials must take a two-year break from office before they can be sworn into another post and restart the term-limit clock.

The Tigard City Council, during an April 19 meeting, voted to codify that interpretation of ambiguous language in the City Charter, which it had been working with the public to parse since early this year.  

In a subsequent vote, the body ruled that candidates must have enough time remaining to complete the full term for which they are running.

The later decision renders Mayor Jason Snider ineligible for re-election in November.

“I’m at peace with the outcome,” Snider said in an interview, adding that he was not surprised by the decision based on the tenor of recent discussions and the introduction of a precedent established by a state race in which the candidate, like Snider, was deemed ineligible because he would have maxed out his time midway through an additional term.  

Snider was near the end of the second year of his second four-year term as a city councilor in 2018 when he resigned to run for mayor. The small gap between his last day as a city councilor and his first day as mayor, raised questions about the charter’s meaning, sparking the current dialogue.

The charter caps combined mayoral and city council service to 12 consecutive years, allowing no more than eight consecutive years in either position, but it failed to define the meaning of “consecutive years,” and didn’t specify how much time out of office was needed to trigger a reset.  

After recusing himself from discussions throughout the process, Snider abstained from voting on both questions.

Councilor John Goodhouse, who plans on a November mayoral bid, abstained from voting on the question of whether or not a candidate would exceed term limits before completing a term, but joined his colleagues in making the earlier decision.

Goodhouse, Council President Heidi Lueb, and councilors Elizabeth Newton and Jeanette Shaw unanimously agreed “the interpretation (of the city charter) is that consecutive years means successive calendar years and that there is a two-year break in service required in order to reset what is a consecutive year.”

Despite expressing their misgivings, Lueb, Newton, and Shaw then voted 3-0 to adopt precedent from a similar case in which Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum ruled that Ted Wheeler, then the state treasurer, was ineligible for re-election in 2016.

Wheeler first took office in 2010 to finish the final two years of Ben Westlund’s term after Westlund’s death. He was re-elected to a full term in 2012. The state constitution says a treasurer cannot serve more than eight years out of a 12-year period.

“Council does have the final authority to determine the qualifications of its members, but we do believe that there is pretty clear case law on answering this question,” City Attorney Shelby Rihala advised before the vote. “We don’t feel that it’s an ambiguous section of the charter that Council would be interpreting, rather the item for Council tonight would be affirming the applicability of the existing case law to this question.”

The Tigard City Charter makes an exception for time served to complete someone else’s unfinished term. Those years are not counted in term limit calculations. Meaning, that in Tigard, partial terms are counted in scenarios such as Snider’s but not Wheeler’s.

“I understand the opinion and thank the city attorney for bringing it forward,” Newton said. “I think given the way our charter works it’s a little bit unfair to folks who are on a certain cycle. I’m hoping that we can take a lot of things before a charter review commission.” 

Shaw and Lueb concurred, reiterating the need for a charter review committee to examine the document and recommend changes.

“The situation that we’re in continues to prove the importance of the charter review, and really looking at these topics and ensuring that our charter effectively serves the Tigard community,” Lueb said.

Though Snider will be eligible to run again in 2026, he is unsure what the future holds.

“I’ve stepped into roles and positions when I’ve felt there is a need, and when I thought I could do some good,” he said.

For now, Snider is focused on facilitating a smooth transition to his successor and helping to ensure the next mayor and city council can maintain what the current body has built during the last three and a half years. 

“The most important thing for me is not losing traction on our achievements,” Snider said, citing progress in diversity, equity, inclusion, and public safety that included passing the city’s first public safety bond. “I have no idea what my plans are other than making sure we get a stable transition and keep up the great work.”

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