Q&A: Get to know the candidates in the race for mayor of Humble

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For the May 4 local election, voters will choose between two candidates in the race for mayor of Humble: incumbent Merle Aaron and candidate Arliss Bentley. Click here for a list of polling locations in the Lake Houston area.

Charles Curry, candidate for Humble City Council Place 1, and Glenn Redmon, candidate for  Humble City Council Place 2, will also be on the May ballot. However, Community Impact Newspaper conducted questionnaires for contested races, and both City Council races are unopposed.

Candidate responses have been edited for length and clarity.

*indicates incumbent candidate

Merle Aaron Sr.*

Hometown: Humble, Texas
Experience: owner of Aaron Mechanical from 1978-2000, served on Humble City Council from 2005-2015, has been mayor since 2015
Top priorities: infrastructure, public safety, financial security, stability and sustainability

What are your reasons for running for mayor?

Aaron: I am running for mayor because, while I feel we have accomplished a lot in my previous four years, there is so much more I’d like to see get done. Beyond that, I’m running because our people are the best, and working for them as mayor has been one of the greatest privileges I have ever had. I want to make sure we are looking toward the future. Change is coming, and we have to put ourselves in a position that can not only handle that change but ensure that our city retains its identity and core small-town values. I also want to see our residents and businesses that were impacted by [Hurricane] Harvey finish their recovery and help them not only move past the devastating effects and put it behind them but also help make certain that it never happens again.

What is the biggest challenge the city faces and how would you begin to address it?

Aaron: The biggest challenge for any city is securing its financial future. Over the last four years we have worked tirelessly to ensure our revenues and expenditures are sustainable and strategic. We have cut where there is fat, and we have funded what is necessary. However, there will always be an infinite amount of needs and services demanded and deserved by our residents and businesses, but there is only a finite amount of resources to accomplish them. Knowing how to strategically plan for that and [getting] creative comes with experience, and that is a challenge that I look forward to meeting.

Humble City Council approved the city’s first long-term strategic plan in January. What should be the city’s top priority moving forward as it works through its strategic plan?

Aaron: Number one, we now know that we have a lot more planning to do. Planning for our future needs, future development and infrastructure by incorporating a comprehensive plan and determining the highest and best land use will be job one. Relative to this, I have challenged our city manager and the staff to establish department-level strategic plans to ensure that our departments have tools and human resources necessary to meet our current [and] future needs.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, state and county entities are allocating funds to mitigate flooding across the region. How would you advocate for the city of Humble to ensure it, too, receives funding or is included in mitigation plans?

Aaron: We are already doing this nearly every day. We have several applications in the works for state and federal funding to provide mitigation and improvements to our community to both prevent and better respond to such incidents. We are also almost constantly in meetings with other local leaders and officials to ensure that … Humble has a voice … [and] we are heard. We are not alone, and we must continue working together with our neighbors in Houston, Kingwood, Atascocita and Harris County. I will continue to fight for Humble’s place at the table and for the recovery dollars that are so vital to making sure something like what happened as a result of Harvey will never happen again.

How do you plan to make the city more attractive for commercial and residential developers and residents?

Aaron: We have adopted over 30 ordinances in the last four years to address development standards and raise the bar for future development and construction. We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. The trick is finding the balance between the high standards we have established to make our community what we want it to be while still being considered business friendly. We will continue to fund things like our Downtown Improvement Program and work closely with our supporters at the Lake Houston Economic Development Partnership to promote Humble and attract and retain future commercial and residential development.

Arliss Bentley

Hometown: born in Nebraska, moved to Texas in 1969
Experience: Humble ISD teacher for 40 years, member of the Humble Beautification Committee for 10 years
Top priorities: greater diversity within city jobs and administration, attracting growth-oriented employers, traffic flow improvement, organizing development of city with zoning laws

What are your reasons for running for mayor?

Bentley: I have attended City Council meetings for the last 12 years as a resident spectator, and I am ready to serve in a decision-making capacity. I want to be mayor to bring a fresh set of eyes to our challenges, to engage residents in more meaningful ways and to revitalize our city. I am a proponent of citizen committees, zoning laws to preserve our residential and business areas, and finding solutions for our escalating traffic concerns.

What is the biggest challenge the city faces and how would you begin to address it?

Bentley: Our beautiful city cannot afford to step back and allow the same practices and policies in the hope that Humble continues to be sustainable. Hope is not a strategy; it is a fallback position that fails to embrace [and] welcome positive change. We need to do more than just pay a consultant to build a city strategic plan for the future. Instead, we need to build realistic, affordable, doable plans through consensus among all residents. I would like to develop a path to support residents and business owners to beautify our town and eliminate the eyesores. Let’s find a way to prevent vacant property deterioration and work with the owners and potential buyers to rehabilitate properties for resale and rent. Perhaps residents could be more involved in raising funds toward cleanup and rehabilitation projects by walk-a-thons, [Humble] restaurant and skating rink … nights. The renovation of Charles Bender [Performing Arts Center] was a huge positive step in the right direction of saving properties to make them into viable attractive businesses. We need more like this.

Humble City Council approved the city’s first long-term strategic plan in January. What should be the city’s top priority moving forward as it works through its strategic plan?

Bentley: Together, we must agree on balancing the city’s revenue sources with projects and initiatives that we can afford to start, complete and maintain far into the future. In the past, we have not been proactive in developing a strategic plan for the city and certain issues have increased, such as traffic congestion and lack of zoning. We should strive to partner with businesses in the area that share our community values and vision. With this initiative, we create a new Humble that is positioned to participate and excel in the growth of the area.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, state and county entities are allocating funds to mitigate flooding across the region. How would you advocate for the city of Humble to ensure it, too, receives funding or is included in mitigation plans?

Bentley: When dealing with challenges like securing grants and other sources of funding to ensure protection of our citizens’ homes and businesses, we need to engage experts who are specialists in disaster recovery. I will be a consistent advocate in doing what is necessary to secure funds … for our citizens and local businesses. I want to ensure Humble is prepared for extreme weather events, such as Harvey. Harvey did not defeat us; it awakened our spirit of community strength and resolve.

How do you plan to make the city more attractive for commercial and residential developers and residents?

Bentley: A clean, well-developed city will attract new residents and businesses. [I will] promote the positives our city can offer, such as proximity to Lone Star College, [George Bush Intercontinental Airport], Deerbrook Mall [and the] civic center [as well as] history and hometown atmosphere. [I will] increase the Downtown Improvement Program grant the city offers to residents and businesses for improvement of their property—not decrease [it] as the last city budget did. We must identify the businesses and industries of the next 50 years, aggressively attract those employers and secure relationships that will keep Humble on the map of the future.

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Kelly Schafler
Kelly Schafler is the editor for the Lake Houston, Humble and Kingwood edition of Community Impact Newspaper, covering public education, city government, development, businesses, local events and all things community-related. Before she became editor, she was the reporter for the Conroe and Montgomery edition for a year and a half.
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