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Original Author: Hemsley, Sid
Date of Material: 09/13/1994

City councilmember
Elections--Terms of office

Can the City Enact Term Limits on Aldermen by Ordinance?

Reviewed Date: 06/25/2021
MTAS was asked whether the City can enact term limits on aldermen by ordinance.

September 13, 1994

Your question is: Can the City enact term limits on aldermen by ordinance? The answer is no, because the qualifications and terms of office for aldermen are set in the city's general law mayor-aldermanic charter.

See the following cases with respect to the superiority of the municipal charter over conflicting municipal ordinances:

Nichols v. Tullahoma Open Door, Inc., 640 S.W.2d 13 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1982)

Sitton v. Fulton, 566 S.W.2d 887 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1978).

Dingman v. Harville, 814 S.W.2d 362 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1991).

State ex rel. Lewis v. Bowman, 814 S.W.2d 369 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1991).

See 59 ALR2d 716 for a good annotation on "Construction and effect of constitutional or statutory provisions disqualifying one for public office because of previous tenure of office" (Term limits). Although none of the cases it cites are directly on point with respect to the power of municipalities to pass term limit ordinances when the state statute in question contains qualifications for office that do not include term limits, some of them suggest that the power to set the terms of office in the absence of state constitutional provisions lies in the hands of the state legislature.

Also see the attached w McQuillen, Municipal Corporations, section 12.114 which says, among other things, that, "Nor is a municipal ordinance legal that seeks to vary the term of an office fixed by constitution, statute or municipal charter."

Let me know if you need further work on this subject.


Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant