Winnetka, News

Winnetka Village Council talks term lengths but discussion is a short one

Winnetka Village President Chris Rintz kickstarted a discussion to change the Village’s unique term lengths for elected officials, but it didn’t go much further than that.

During a Village Council study session on Tuesday evening, trustees expressed a lack of desire to make a change.

The conversation centered on how the Village would go about changing the term length of trustees and the village president from two to four years and from four to two terms. The max length of service would remain the same at eight years.

As it remains, the village president and trustees of Winnetka will continue to serve two-year terms. Winnetka’s village code does not regulate term limits; however, the Winnetka Caucus, the non-partisan citizen group that nominates candidates, contains a provision in its bylaws that limits officials to four consecutive terms.

May 2025 will mark the end of Rintz’s fourth term. Having served the maximum eight years, Rintz emphasized to the board that he does not have “a dog in this fight.” He expressed concerns over how the two-year terms create more turnover that he believes hinders long-term projects and institutional memory and makes more onboarding work for the staff. 

“It seems to me that it makes sense that we shift this to two, four-year terms,” said Rintz. “I think it’s better for the village, I think it’s better for policy making, I think it’s better for decision making. I think these ridiculously short term limits are impeding our ability to do important work in the Village Council.”

As part of the discussion, Village Manager Rob Bahan presented of a survey conducted by The Northwest Municipal Conference that looked at the term lengths and term limits of 28 north-suburban communities. The survey found that 26 of those municipalities have four-year terms, making Winnetka one of the two without.

According to the survey, most communities have no term limits. The village president and trustees in Wilmette have a two-term limit per the village code. Elected officials in Kenilworth, Glencoe and Northfield also have a two-term limit. Highland Park has no official term limit.

Rintz and the trustees heard about how a binding referendum and non-binding referendum could inform a change to the term lengths. But trustees did not support moving forward.

Trustee Kim Handler previously served on the Winnetka Caucus and said that the caucus has struggled to find candidates for the Village Council, even with the two-year terms. She fears that a shift to four years would only exacerbate the issue. 

“It’s a big job,” Handler said. “Many people can look out two years and say, ‘Between my job and family, I can figure out and make sure I can commit to two years.’ Looking out four years, it is a little difficult to make that kind of commitment.”

Trustee Tina Dalman shared Handler’s concerns over the commitment of four years.

“A four-year term could have a chilling effect on women willing to step up,” Dalman said. “I would be concerned about finding candidates and a breadth of candidates. We don’t want just everybody who is retired. I think what’s really great about our board is that we’ve got all different generations here.”

Trustees also agreed the council was functioning well despite regular turnover. Many shared that they felt the group had made great progress on long-term projects. Trustee Bob Dearborn said that he liked the “freshness” of the consistent elections.

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