Next year voters in Riverside will have a chance to decide if they want to put term limits on village trustees and the village president, maybe.

At the last full meeting of the outgoing village board on April 18 the village board voted unanimously to approve holding a referendum next March to decide whether village officials should be limited to no more than three consecutive four year terms in office.

That 6-0 vote came after a closely divided village board voted 4 to 3, with Village President Ben Sells casting the deciding vote, to vote down a motion to have a referendum limiting village officials to just two terms in office.

But with three new board members taking office on May 2 it is possible that the newly constituted village board will decide to cancel the referendum. At least one of the three new board members is willing to consider doing that.

“I certainly understand the argument for term limits, especially in Chicago and at the state level, but I’m not sure they’re right for our small village,” said Cristin Evans who will be one of the three new board members sworn in on May 2. “So, if there was enough consensus on the new board to discuss rescinding the resolution, I would be open to it.”

Current board member Doug Pollock, who has two years left on his second term, is opposed to term limits and said that he doesn’t think the new board members should feel bound by last week’s vote.

“In my opinion they should feel empowered to do what they think is best for the village and not be restricted by what the previous board did,” Pollock said. 

Pollock and Elizabeth Peters have been opposed to term limits but after voting against placing a two term limit on the ballot next year they voted in favor having a referendum on the three term limit as a compromise. 

Sells, who opposes term limits for village officials said that he doesn’t have a position on whether the new board should cancel the referendum. “That will be up to the new trustees, whether they want to do something like that,” Sells said.

But Sells, who is the middle of his second term as village president, told the Landmark that he would not be the fourth vote to cancel the referendum because he agreed to the compromise of having a referendum on the three term limit.

The three departing members of the village board: Joseph Ballerine, Scott Lumsden, and Michael Sedivy have all been supporters of term limits although Ballerine cast the key vote against approving a referendum for a two term limit instead preferring a three term limit that would not prohibit Sells and Pollock from running for one more term. Ballerine said he would have preferred a two term limit for village president and three terms for village trustees but voted for the three term limit for each office referendum as a compromise. “I thought it was more important to have some sort of term limit than perfect term limits,” Ballerine said.

The only returning member of the village board who is solid backer of term limits is Wendall Jisa although incoming board member Edward Hannon told the Landmark that he favors term limits and favors letting the voters decide the issue in a referendum. “I think the three term limit makes sense,” Hannon said. “I think it’s a great idea to put in front of the residents and have them vote.”

Sells said that he would vote for one change. He thinks the referendum should be on the November general election ballot instead of on the March primary ballot because many more people will vote in the general election than in the primary.

“I did not favor and I still do not favor the idea of having a referendum of this significance on a primary ballot,” Sells said. “I think it would be far better to have it on a general election ballot so that you have a much fuller representation of the community.”

Sedivy said at the village board meeting that his desire for term limits, and his wish to limit village officials to just two terms in office, was not directed at any specific individuals.

Pollack and Peters say that the bigger problem in Riverside is getting people to run for and serve in village office. Riverside has not had a contested village election since 2009 and this year there were three candidates for the three seats only because Hannon decided late in the process to run. Ballerine, seen as a possible future candidate for village president, is stepping down after serving two consecutive terms on the village board and Lumsden and Sedivy are stepping down after serving for just one term.