Ascension Parish Council discusses term limits, sends issue back to committee

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
In a file photo, members of the Ascension Parish Council are shown during the March 3 meeting held at the Donaldsonville courthouse. Shown from left are Teri Casso, Chase Melancon, Aaron Lawler, Dal Waguespack, and Michael Mason.

The Ascension Parish Council went over potential term limits during the May 19 meeting in Gonzales, but ultimately decided to send the matter back to the Strategic Planning Committee to fine-tune the idea.

The initial discussion was introduced by Joel Robert as a Home Rule Charter amendment to limit council members and the parish president to three consecutive six-year terms beginning at the start of 2024, if able to get it on the ballot in time.

Chase Melancon of District 6 started the conversation by saying he felt terms are already limited by every election as voters go to the polls to decide on candidates. The viewpoint was shared by others who spoke about the matter.

Robert said the reasoning behind the six-year term was due to the amount of time some projects take and the time it takes for a first-term council member to get accustomed to the job.

"We're a little overwhelmed when we get here. There's just so much going on," said Robert, who is serving his first term representing District 2.

Aaron Lawler of District 7 agreed with Melancon's initial statement about term limits.

"We have term limits. Term limits are the voters. I put a lot of faith in voters to make the right decision. Term limits seem to tell me we are not putting faith in voters to make the right decision. That's why I think it's a very un-democratic thing to tell somebody, 'You can't have the elected official that you want to have,'" Lawler said.

He added he was not opposed to sending the decision on term limits to the voters, and also mentioned the council should take a look at the whole charter.

Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment agreed with the idea of letting the voters decide.

"I would like to see it go back to Strategic. Let's hopefully get a little bit more public input at that committee. As well as questions the administration or you may have. Let's get those in order. This kind of came on us quickly," Cointment said.

Council members present voted against two motions. The first, which would limit officials to four consecutive four-year terms, was voted down 4-5. The second, which was the original motion for no three consecutive six-year terms, was denied 3-6. Travis Turner and Corey Orgeron were absent.

District 8's Teri Casso then motioned to return the matter to the committee "for thorough evaluation and discussion." Lawler seconded, and it carried without objection.