The Orange City Council and its Charter Change Committee began Tuesday’s meeting with a recap of its previous gatherings before voting to approve three-year terms and no term limits on a seven-member council. 

Committee recommendations will be forwarded to a future council agenda for approval and placement on the March ballot.

Councilwoman Theresa Beauchamp wondered, after carefully studying a lengthy document provided by the city, if four geographic districts with three at-large seats wouldn’t create problems down the line – a frequent concern of several committee members in earlier meetings.

Committeewoman Essie Bellfield, as she has said in the past, wondered if changing the council was even necessary based on her at-large election as Orange’s first black mayor in 1998. Earlier than that, she noted, she had been elected a justice of the peace.

“If you change [the charter], that doesn’t mean a minority will get on. It doesn’t mean a minority will be elected,” she said.

NAACP President Raymond Young responded, “The concept is to give everyone a fair voting system. It’s not a guarantee you’re going to have a black on the council. It’s not a guarantee you’re going to have a white on council … the issue in my opinion is not about black or white, it is about a fair system for everyone.”

Councilman Jeff Holland attributed the need to change as “the growing pains of the annexation of Little Cypress.”

“Our president can live anywhere in the country, our governor can live anywhere in the state – then you have separate districts,” he said.

The committee’s main decision Tuesday was to define terms and term limits, eventually deciding to recommend staggered three-year terms. Candidates would need to win by at least 51 percent.

This was followed by Holland’s motion for no term limits, also approved by a majority of committee members.

“If a candidate is doing a good job, I don’t think we should turn them out just because of a time period,” Holland said. “I think the term limits should be every election – and if they’re not doing a good job – vote them out.”

The committee will meet once more at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 8 in the Orange library’s Williamson Room, or immediately following the city council’s regular 9 a.m. meeting. 

Council meetings take place in the annex just to the south of the library’s main building.