NEW BEDFORD - Aside from choosing candidates for elected office, New Bedford voters will decide an important question about the length of the mayor's term.

The citizens group "New Bedford Fourward" has received enough signatures to put the question on Tuesday's ballot of whether the mayoral term should be lengthened from two years to four.

Rick Kidder, President and CEO of the Southcoast Chamber of Commerce in New Bedford, says the current two year term limits the office holder. "It's really hard when you get into a system where you're elected, you govern for a year, then you're under the cloud of reelection," said Kidder. "You're constantly in reelection mode."

Kidder argues that a longer term affords voters the luxury of determining whether the mayor is an effective leader or not.

"I don't think you can in a year and a half, which is actually what it takes before the campaign season would kick in again, determine whether somebody has represented you well. I also don't think you can determine [within that time] whether someone has represented you poorly."

Former Mayor Scott Lang is opposed to longer mayoral terms, saying voters in the city deserve to have the chance to hold their elected officials accountable every two years. "If you believe you're a public servant, it's not inconvenient to run for office," says Lang. "In fact, that's part of what your responsibilities are; to face the voters; to debate; to get involved in discussions; to be a better public servant."

Lang says a two year term never encumbered him from pulling the trigger on long-term projects that he knew he would have to hand responsibility over to the next office holder.

"I believe in the pass-off. I passed off a tremendous number of projects to Mayor Mitchell. He's finished them. He's accomplished what I hoped to do. He will pass on projects to someone else."

The question would change the City's charter, allowing four year terms in the mayor's office without term limits. If approved, the new term length would take effect for the 2019 municipal election winner.

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