VALPARAISO — Extending Indiana sheriffs' terms from four to six years was a popular idea Thursday at a gathering of sheriffs, state lawmakers and local officials.
Steve Luce, executive director of the Indiana Sheriffs' Association, pitched the proposal during a roundtable discussion hosted by the ISA and Porter County Sheriff's Department.
Sheriffs from around the state face the same challenge when taking office, according to Luce. They spend the first year or so learning the job and then just when they become comfortable, have to refocus on seeking a second four-year term, he said.
Having longer terms would provide "more continuity," Luce said.
Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez said he favored increasing from two to three the number of elected terms that can be sought by sheriffs.
Martinez said his own time in office has gone quickly and he has had to learn so much with the operation of the jail alone. Martinez first was elected in 2017 by Democratic party officials to complete the 15 months left in the unfinished term of former Sheriff John Buncich, who was convicted of bribery and removed from office.
The additional term would retain the right of voters to replace someone they do not like, Martinez said.
"I don't have enough time to get everything done I want to get done," he said.
Luce said increasing the current four-year terms to six years would avoid a challenge to term limits and yet extend the time sheriffs could serve so they "can do good things."
He said judges and prosecutors are not limited to just two terms like sheriffs.
This proposal would likely have more success downstate if it is joined by a push for the same type of change for other elected county-level offices limited to just two terms, Luce said.
Hendricks County Sheriff Brett Clark agreed, saying that those other county positions also require knowledge gained on the job.
He said simply increasing the number of four-years terms from two to three would be more expensive for candidates when election costs are figured in.
State Rep. Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie, said the change will require a team effort by all the affected players.
The same suggestion was made by State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, who added that the momentum needs to come from the bottom up.