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Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Local Pulse – The letter of the law and the spirit of the law


Naperville is a wonderful and diverse community filled with intelligent, hard-working, and giving people. Within our city, we are fortunate to have a vibrant volunteer community that donates their time and talents to a variety of boards, commissions and panels. In my opinion, this generous volunteer spirit is one of Naperville’s greatest assets. People want to serve. People want to help. People want to lend their personal expertise to help make Naperville a better place to live, work, and play.

In November of 2010, the voters of Naperville resoundingly approved a referendum that would put term limits in place for City Council members. The measure received a 71.24% positive vote in the DuPage County portion of the city, and a 73.16% positive vote on the Will County side. This outcome is what politicos refer to as a “mandate.”

The results were not close; they were not ambiguous. There was no confusion on what the will of the people was. When asked if public servants should be limited to a specific number of years of service, 3 of 4 voters said YES.

Term limits provide for a healthy turnover of ideas, and prevent a singular agenda from taking root over time. Term limits also protect against corruption and promote positive progress. And in a community such as ours, where so many people are willing to step up and serve, those who cast a vote in that 2010 referendum said very clearly that they value the opportunity for new, good people to have a hand in shaping Naperville’s future.

Our best leaders recognize that there is a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, and that both are vitally important. If people look hard enough, they’ll find that most public policies include loopholes that can be used to circumvent the spirit of a law or policy.

It is incumbent upon our leaders to ensure that decision makers don’t take advantage of loopholes for political purposes.

When the people of Naperville said they value term limits and a turnover of leadership and ideas, I doubt they meant that a leader who met the maximum years allowed under the term-limit policy should leave one position of authority and leapfrog ahead a qualified field of candidates to serve on another board or commission within the city’s government.

After all, when leaders utilize loopholes and disregard the people of Naperville’s mandate on term limits, future leaders are denied the opportunity to share their talents and shape a better tomorrow for our city.

Grant Wehrli
Grant Wehrli
Grant Wehrli is a lifelong Naperville Resident and former Representative in the Illinois House of Representatives and Naperville City Councilman.