How could adopting a 4-year term of office for Mayor and City Council impact Sterling Heights government?

Across comparably-sized cities in the United States, a 4-year term for mayors and city councils is the predominant term by a considerable margin. This holds true for comparably-sized cities in Michigan. Among the factors cited for the prevalence of 4-year terms are: 

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 10.02.01 AMCost. It is expensive to conduct an election and any reduction in the frequency saves a municipality money. In Sterling Heights, having a city election every two years costs the City approximately $75,000 more than if the terms of the Mayor and City Council were set at 4 years. 

Productivity. Campaigning for public office can be time-consuming and potentially detracts from a focus on the duties of office. Some advocates for 4-year terms further cite a greater risk of politics influencing decision-making with 2-year terms. 

Effectiveness. Good governance relies on long-range planning and sound and consistent policy-making. These best practices can be compromised by a two-year election cycle that prioritizes short-term results.

What happens if the 4-year ballot proposal does not pass?

The City would continue to have 2-year terms of office for both Mayor and City Council, with elections every two years.

What is the common practice in comparably sized cities throughout the United States?

A survey of comparably sized cities throughout the United States indicates that the vast majority (Approx. 92%) have established 4-year terms for their City Council. 

Do large cities in Michigan have 4-year terms for their Mayor and/or City Council?

Yes. Ann Arbor, Livonia, Southfield, Farmington Hills, Lansing, Dearborn, Troy, Grand Rapids and Warren all have 4-year terms for their Mayor and/or City Council.

What impact would 4-year terms have on the current or future pandemic safety precautions? 

Approximately 20,000 residents vote in local elections. Processing fewer ballots whether absentee or in person is considered to be safer. 


Are there benefits to a reduction in the required number of signatures on the nominating petitions for the offices of Mayor and City Council?

If approved, the 400 ballot proposal significantly reduces the number of signatures needed on nominating petitions to run for the offices of Mayor or City Council in Sterling Heights. The reduction of the signature requirement would, therefore, make it easier for potential candidates to run for elective office. 

How would a reduction of required signatures impact safety precautions for the current or future pandemics?

The COVID-19 outbreak further impacts candidates’ ability to safely secure signatures on nominating petitions due to the necessary social interaction involved in the process. The proposed significant reduction to 400 signatures is aligned with reducing the public health risk associated with this process.

What will happen if the 400 Charter Amendment Proposal is not passed by the voters?

The current minimum signature amount of 1% of the City’s registered voters (approximately 900 signatures) would continue to be required for all candidates for Mayor or City Council, and would continue to be the highest requirement for elective office in comparable cities throughout the State. 

How can voters learn more about the 4 & 400 ballot proposals?

The City is committed to informing voters on the 4 & 400 ballot proposals. Please visit the 4 & 400 webpage at for additional information and upcoming public presentations and community outreach. Residents may also call 586-446-CITY.