Winnetka Village Council talks terms of office but the discussion is short

Winnetka Village President Chris Rintz kicked off 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 Tuesday night, trustees expressed a lack of desire to make a change.

The conversation revolved around how the village would go about changing the term of office for trustees and village president from two to four years and from four to two terms. The maximum length of service would remain the same at eight years.

As it stands, the village president and trustee of Winnetka will continue to serve two-year terms. Winnetka’s city code does not regulate time limits; However, the Winnetka Caucus, the nonpartisan citizens’ group that nominates candidates, includes one provision in its statutes which limits the officers to four consecutive terms.

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

“It seems to me that it makes sense that we move this to two, four years,” Rintz said. “I think it’s better for the village, I think it’s better for decision-making, I think it’s better for decision-making. I think these ridiculously short-sighted limits hinder our ability to do important work on the village council.”

As part of the discussion, Village Manager Rob Bahan presented by a survey conducted by the Northwest Municipal Conference that looked at term lengths and term limits for 28 northwest 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 societies have no time limits. Village president and trustees in Wilmette are limited to two terms by village code. Trustees in Kenilworth, Glencoe and Northfield also have a two-term limit. Highland Park has no official time limit.

Rintz and the trustees were told how a binding referendum and non-binding referendum could inform a change in terms of office. But the trustees did not support going ahead.

Trustee Kim Handler previously served on the Winnetka caucus and said the caucus has struggled to find candidates for the Village Council, even with the two-year term. She fears that a move to four years would only make the problem worse.

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

Trustee Tina Dalman shared Handler’s concerns about the four-year commitment.

“A four-year term can have a discouraging effect on women who are willing to take the plunge,” Dalman said. “I would be concerned about finding candidates and a breadth of candidates. We don’t just want everyone who is retired. I think what’s really great about our board is that we have all different generations here.”

The trustees also agreed that the council functioned well despite regular turnover. Many reported that they felt the group had made great progress in long-term projects. Trustee Bob Dearborn said he liked the “freshness” of the consistent picks.

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