2020 Voter Guide
Get to know the candidates running in the general election
COMPILED BY VANESSA HOLT
TheWoodlands Townshipboardof directors, Position 1
TheWoodlands Township board of directors, Position 4
Occupation: psychologist Relevant experience: former federal law enforcement ocer and hostage negotiation team leader, business consultant www.facebook.com/ groups/3549864825026571 JERRY D. SMITH JR.
Occupation: president and CEO of The Woodlands Financial Group (TWFG) Relevant experience: served as The Woodlands Township chair, treasurer and secretary; chair and treasurer of [Visit the Woodlands], other local boards www.gordybunch.com GORDY BUNCH
Occupation: chaplain of Interfaith of The Woodlands Relevant experience: administration of DAN HANNON
Occupation: aviation consultant BRUCE RIESER
Relevant experience: two terms on the board of directors, currently vice chairman; chair of Visit The Woodlands, and the drainage and budget task forces; CEO of SKR Consulting www.rieserfortownship.us
public institutions and businesses as founding pastor and senior minister to Christ Church United Methodist www.hannonfortownship.com
What do you feel are the most important issues facing The Woodlands Township in 2021 and beyond?
Trac, business development/ diversication, preserving the greenery and way of life/community are the biggest issues for [The Woodlands Township] in 2021 and beyond.
COVID-19 and oil and gas impacts on our local economy. The business capacity restrictions, previous statewide stay-at- home orders and the drop in oil and gas prices are having an ... eect on local businesses. ... Our incorporation study as well as our performing arts facility study ... need to have their studies completed and presented to the public. Flood mitigation, subsidence and longterm water supply need to stay on the radar.
Critical Issues before The [Woodlands] Township [are]: incorporation decisions— preserve our township; public safety/law enforcement—security for our families; controlling budget and taxes.
The most important (non-incorporation) issue ... is the eective management of water resources. We are facing dicult decisions related to ... the use of surface water and ground water to avoid potential ground subsidence, and to identify and fund solutions to control storm water. The Drainage Task Force has given our residents a ... voice to inuence the organizations tasked with water management. We should denitely nish the study and when the restrictions on indoor meetings are lifted, begin the public dialogue over the reasons for or against the creation of the City of The Woodlands. With the culmination of this work, to vote to place the question on the ballot calling for a public referendum. The fact that we haven’t completed this work was a major factor in my decision to run for another term. The budget processes within the township are well established and they should continue to be followed. The township establishes a base budget and projects revenues and costs out an additional four years to ensure that we remain on a sustainable track. It is also clear that we will need to control costs and aggressively pursue sales taxes and hotel taxes to continue keeping our tax rate at or below the eective rate. As a senior director in a multibillion dollar, multinational corporation, I compiled and managed massive budgets, led hundreds of sta and authored and revised performance standards. I understand the value of a dollar and the need to constantly innovate to survive. I valued my colleagues, and actively sought their input. Those experiences prepared me to be a leader, both on the board and in the community.
Do you feel the township should revisit the topic of incorporation; if so, when and how?
Yes, The Woodlands Township should revisit this issue by formally completing the study, presenting the ndings to the public and placing on the ballot at the earliest opportunity.
If ... residents wish to consider incorporation, then a vote may be in order. However, with recent legislation that eliminates the threat of forced annexation, the main rationalization for incorporation is gone. We have until 2057 ... to make decisions about governance. The Woodlands Township system is one that should be replicated in our state rather than eliminated. ... Now is not the time to rush.
Yes ... the pros are permanent elimination of Houston and Conroe ... annexation rights; [the] ability to consolidate [municipal utility districts]; Ordinance of Law authority; tax freezes for 65 and older; new revenue sources [and others]. The cons would be costs associated with providing additional services. [Residents] should have an opportunity to vote for or against incorporation once the study is completed.
What should The Woodlands prioritize in its budget in the next two years, and how should it fund new needs?
The Woodlands should prioritize in the budget improving the natural environment and increasing the sense of community in the next two years while reducing the overall budget where possible. New needs should be funded through the sales tax reserve fund as available.
The Woodlands is nearing residential buildout and will need new non-property tax revenues to help keep our tax rates low. Expanding The Woodlands Convention Center and building a performing arts theater can help expand our hotel and sales tax base. [Reserve balances] have allowed us to lower the 2021 tax rate and manage through COVID-19 revenue losses without having to reduce service levels.
Priority must be given to public safety and law enforcement as one of the more important aspects of our quality of life. Preserve and enhance our township and reconsidering past incorporation funds that are no longer needed and put them towards new needs
How do you feel your experience will help you to serve as a board member?
My experiences as a former psychologist, federal law enforcement ocer, business owner, biracial individual, and military brat who has [lived] in multiple countries give me a unique perspective on our community and the issues we face. I bring a dierent set of eyes and problem- solving abilities that only someone having to navigate so many dierent aspects can bring.
I feel my 8 1/2 years of The Woodlands Township board experience helps me serve our residents and assist my fellow board members. The ... experience will also help me transition our new president/general manager Je Jones. Under my tenure our boards have reduced the property tax rate 32%, reduced total outstanding debt 62.5% and increased our hometowns’ cash reserves by $43.6 million.
My educational degrees and work experience prepare me for serving in leadership for a public position as a member of the board of directors. I hold a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in public school administration from the University of Houston. I led the development of a large Christian ministry with its correlating business management functions from ground zero to the large congregation it is today.
Answers may have been edited for length. Read full Q&A’s at communityimpact.com/vote .
THE WOODLANDS EDITION • OCTOBER 2020
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