Efforts to limit Palm Beach Gardens City Council members to two three-year terms appeared headed for a landslide victory Tuesday night.
The citizens initiative, pushed by two former council candidates, would leave all but one member of the five-member council out of office by 2017.
Some incumbents argued that only experience can stand up to developers and keep the city in strong financial shape. Two — Joe Russo and Eric Jablin — have been in office more than 20 years.
But the term limits effort gained momentum last year when residents felt blindsided by a city attempt to place a spring-training baseball complex in a residential area off Central Boulevard.
The baseball plan never crossed home plate, and the anger it generated allowed term limits advocates to field several thousand signatures on petitions to impose limits and apply them to current members, and they battled the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections to get the questions on November ballots.
“The Palm Beach Gardens voters have spoken loud and clear against career politicians,” said businessman Michael Peragine, who led the term-limits effort with lawyer James D’Loughy.
“Our committee has invested the better part of the last year in an effort to level the playing field for candidates looking to participate in civic duties,” Peragine said Tuesday night, “and it’s gratifying that 80 percent of Gardens voters have backed our efforts on their behalf.”
“With term limits now in place, new life will be breathed into the city for generations to come,” D’Loughy said.
The underlying question for voters was how to balance the desire for a fresh start with the risk of an inexperienced board.
Russo has held office 25 years; Vice Mayor Jablin, 22; Mayor Bert Premuroso, six; and Marcie Tinsley, three years.
David Levy, first elected 11 years ago, would get a reprieve for a few more years. Technically he’s only in his first term, because he left office in 2012 to run unsuccessfully for county commission and was voted back on board in 2013.
For Jablin, the vote bode ill for the city.
“I am disappointed that the people have decided to put constraints on the electoral process that has served this great city so well for the past 55 years,” he said.
“I still believe that, if you are doing a good job, it would be a shame to lose someone who is willing to continue to serve. As I have said all along, elections should be term limits, and setting artificial limits on how long someone can serve will not be a good thing for the city. I hope I am proven wrong in the future because I love this city. Even after my term is up I will continue to stay involved and will support candidates who will make me proud to live here.”