Q&A: Incumbent Chris Preston to face challengers Susan Soto, Buddy Snyder, Angie Wierzbicki in Missouri City at large Position 2 council election

Council member Chris Preston is up against three challengers in this year's Missouri City City Council race. Attorney Susan Soto, retired Houston ISD teacher Buddy Snyder and executive director for nonprofits Angie Wierzbicki will be on the Nov. 6 ballot along with Preston. See where these candidates stand on local issues here:

Susan Soto
Occupation: Attorney at Law
Experience: 17 years in public education; 7 years as an attorney; President of the Thunderbird North Community Association; member of Missouri City TIRZ Board No. 1 and Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee; member of the Woman's Club of Missouri City, Stafford-Missouri City Lions Club, and Quail Valley Quails.
Top priorities: My priorities are to make the at-large office accessible to constituents and stakeholders, to connect citizens with city staff and district council members to form a problem-solving team, and to maintain what is working in the city and improve what isn’t. My role on city council as an at-large member would be to advance the interests of my constituents, the residents of Missouri City, and not my own.

Phone number: 832-426-2525
Website: www.facebook.com/electsusansoto

Buddy Snyder
Occupation: Retired Houston ISD educator
Experience: President of Meadowcreek MUD; President of Missouri City AARP chapter; Secretary of Friends of Missouri City Library; Member of City Parks and Recreation Board; Member of City Parks and Recreation Senior Planning Council; Member of Mayor's Advisory Council; Member of Missouri City Green; graduate of the Missouri City Citizen's Police and Fire Academy as well as the Missouri City Citizen's Academy
Top priorities: Increasing the city eye appeal via the installation of outdoor public art be it fine art or folk art and finding avenues to attract businesses and seeing to their establishment in the city's somewhat blighted areas.

Phone number: 713-859-5920

Angie Wierzbicki
Occupation: Executive Director for Nonprofits
Experience: I have been responsible for fundraising and growing numerous Fort Bend County nonprofits (including Fort Bend Cares and Cullinan Park Conservancy). Before entering the nonprofit world, I was the Executive Director for an economic development organization in Iowa. I have been deeply involved in Missouri City for years. I am co-founder of Missouri City Green, implemented the “Keep Texas Beautiful” affiliate status and served as a catalyst for the city’s curbside recycling program.
Top priorities: As the mother of young children, I am very interested in keeping Missouri City family friendly. Parks and activities for all ages are important to me. As someone who intends to reside here for many years, ensuring that our tax rate is fair and serves our residents is prime. We must keep our city safe, grow and retain our businesses and do our part with waste management. The issues can be found on my website.

Phone number: 832-274-9246
Website: www.AngieforMC.com

Chris Preston
Occupation: Small business owner
Experience: Two term incumbent for Missouri City City Council
Top priorities: Strengthening our fiscal health, improving our infrastructure, enhancing our quality of life
Phone number: 832-988-2499
Website: www.prestonforcitycouncil.com

City Council has expressed interest in growing its commercial tax base, what strategies do you propose to accomplish those goals?
SOTO: Growing the commercial tax base in Missouri City would create local jobs and lessen reliance on residential property tax revenue. In order to complement residential property tax revenue with commercial taxes, I would encourage seeking out developers for mixed-use projects (like the one currently planned for Highway 6 near Colony Lakes) and office or light industrial complexes, in line with the city's Comprehensive Plan.

SNYDER: To increase the city's commercial tax base I do not at this time have sufficient knowledge nor study to advance a particular strategy. I would first need to determine what strategies have already been advanced before evaluating their success and trying to formulate a new strategy.

WIERZBICKI: It needs to be our goal to entice exciting, up-and-coming, innovative, professional opportunities for employment, living and retail. I would love to see a small business incubator program for Missouri City where the city, in conjunction with small-business related organizations, helps new and startup companies by offering office space and a program for growth - providing services such as management training, mentoring and more. We could lead the way locally with homegrown small businesses.

PRESTON: Attracting word-class businesses that can be long-term tenants and friendly neighbors to the surrounding subdivisions. It’s important to me that the businesses are clean, safe on the environment and help encourage walkable communities. It’s equally important that the company maintain a business philosophy that believes in giving back to the community, such as supporting area youth programs and hiring some of its employees/student interns from our exceptional and ever-growing talent base in Missouri City.

Staff recommended a 3-cent tax rate increase for fiscal year 2018-19. Do you support this and why or why not?
SOTO: I support the proposed increase. The small proportion of sales tax as revenue and the extensive cost-cutting measures the city has already taken require the city to look elsewhere for the funding needed for projects and expenses. By asking each property owner to help in a reasonable way, the tax rate increase can be a part of a broader approach to funding that includes partnerships, grants, diverse revenue sources and creative, new ideas.

SNYDER: Yes. Lamentably, a tax increase seems inevitable and needed. Streets, sidewalks, and a host of other infrastructure areas need an infusion of attention and cash. A modest tax increase bests—in my mind—a cut in city services.

WIERZBICKI: I support this tax increase because I know the staff runs a lean budget, providing services with a smaller-than-average number of employees for a city of our size. The increase keeps Missouri City in the “average” range of neighboring cities’ property tax rates. I recognize this could put a pinch in some senior citizens’ budgets. I welcome the opportunity to work with both the City and our seniors to ensure their needs are adequately met.

PRESTON: Staff recommended a 3-cent tax rate increase for fiscal year 2018-19. Do you support this and why or why not? I support this 3-cent tax rate increase only as a last resort because we have exhausted other options. As your Councilmember, I will not make excuses, but instead say, we must strive to do better as it relates to accountability, transparency, long-term decision making and the resources we provide to our city departments. We assumed the responsibility of public service not the taxpayers, therefore, we must accept and bear the responsibility it entails.

If elected, which challenges to address will be your priority for the next term?
SOTO: An at-large councilmember's priorities should be the citizens' priorities, not her own. To identify those priorities, rather than wait to conduct a town hall meeting or forum long after the election, I will make meetings with groups of residents and stakeholders a top priority early on. It is imperative that I understand what is on their minds so that I can represent their interests honestly and accurately.

SNYDER: I am running because: I have unfettered time to study issues that might come before Council for consideration. I run prepared by having attended city operation orientation programs. I run having established/demonstrated leadership skills. I run to be part of what I consider a highly successful team. I believe in public service. I practice public service to my community.

WIERZBICKI: Missouri City is becoming more successful in attracting new retail businesses. I want those efforts increased, but just as importantly as efforts to ensure businesses stay and grow here. In addition to our beautiful neighborhoods, our residents told us during the 2015 Parks Master Plan process they want more walking and bicycling trails. We need to listen to them. Finally, we need to continue to work on addressing our aging infrastructure.

PRESTON: [I would address] strengthening our fiscal health; improving our infrastructure; enhancing our quality of life; promoting safe and walkable neighborhoods; promoting parks and additional greenspace; and working closely with FBISD to strengthen our schools citywide.

By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


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