Meet the candidates running for Montgomery County judge


Two candidates will face off this November to be the next Montgomery County judge.

Republican candidate Mark Keough currently serves as representative for House District 15 as well as a senior pastor at The Woodlands Bible Church.

Democratic candidate Jay Stittleburg works as a project manager for an engineering firm and served 14 years in the U.S. Navy.

Jay Stittleburg

Jay Stittleburg
Democratic candidate for Montgomery County judge

Occupation: Project manager for project management and engineering firm in the oil and gas industry
Experience: Active duty in U.S. Navy for more than 14 years, certified project management professional for 11 years
Top priorities: Develop a strategic plan to address population growth, public safety, flood mitigation, mobility and infrastructure in the county; reduce wasteful spending

What do you see as the most critical project or initiative to prevent future flooding in the county?
I think [flooding] is on a lot of people’s minds. The first thing that actually needs to happen is we need to make sure the flood plain maps are actually up to date and current, because in my opinion from the county perspective and the authority the county has, those maps need to be accurate because the authority the county has—when it comes to trying to help enforce responsible development as the county grows—is we have to have accurate flood plain maps because the things we control is basically building codes. So when a developer comes in and they want to build something we need to ensure is, “is it in a flood plain, or is it not?” And then we need to make sure they’re doing the proper studies.

I’ve mentioned this before that, I’m not saying this is the exact right program, but it’s certainly a model we should be looking, is I know the area around the Trinity River. They have a program that the county runs so when developers come in and they want to develop something that’s, for example, in a 100-year flood plain, they have to get a permit. In submitting to get that permit they have to submit studies of how the concrete’s going to affect flow of water and there’s specific, stringent criteria about what can happen with that water. It’s not just a study that says, well this is what’s going to happen. In order for you to get the permit, the water cannot rise above where it is now. There are good programs there, but it all starts with making sure you have accurate flood plain maps, because if you don’t it’s pointless. In my opinion and clearly, we have to have relationships with the San Jacinto River Authority and the Harris County Flood Control District and quite frankly the surrounding county commissioners’ courts, the county judges and the head of emergency management for the counties. Obviously there has to be communication there on how we can effectively work well together and not recreate wheels. There’s no reason to recreate wheels.

Aside from flooding, what is the biggest challenge facing the precinct? How would you address that challenge?
Again, I think the biggest challenge we have facing the county is the population growth and dealing with that population growth when it comes to how people can get around the county. Mobility and infrastructure—we’ve certainly had studies done that were in cooperation with the [Houston-Galveston Area Council] and specifically in South County, basically The Woodlands area, but there’s other areas of the county. So if I consider that South County being South County, then there are three other geographical areas of the county, and when that one particular study that I think was done in 2015, it’s talking about $1.6 billion of projects in just South County. So multiply that by three more areas of the county and you’re looking at over $6 billion worth of projects that probably need to be addressed, some of them immediately, some of them long term. But I mean this is probably looking at a 20-plus year period of time, but at the end of the day that’s $6-plus billion. How are we going to work to get funds to help subsidize the cost of those things so we don’t have to get a bond for everything? The only way you’re going to do that in a responsible way is to start building relationships and have a plan and then try to execute that plan, because I think it’s much more likely you’re going to be able to get some help funding-wise whether it’s state or federal is to have a plan you can take to them. So, I see that as the biggest challenge we have, it’s certainly not the only challenge, but I think that’s the biggest one because I think we’re being a lot more reactive as a county than we are being proactive. When we don’t have a plan on paper to kind of guide us in the right direction, people tend to have their own ideas, which is fine, but no one seems to be thinking about the same things because we don’t have a centralized plan that everyone has an input on. By the way, this is a group effort. The county judge is here to look at the 50,000-foot level when it comes to the commissioners because the commissioners are obviously very focused on their own precincts. We have four precincts and their precincts are all No. 1. So, we have four No. 1 precincts, how are we going to do that?

How should the county address increasing traffic on roads with its limited revenue sources?
The question is always going to be how are we going to find the money for it? Quite frankly, this is also a part of how one of the things that we’re obviously doing on a daily basis is we’re trying to recruit companies to put, whether it’s their headquarters building or maybe one of their bigger office complexes or a manufacturing facility, we’re trying to recruit those companies to come in here and obviously development’s going on all the time, whether it’s commercial or residential. We need to work with those developers and contractors and companies that are moving into the county. Responsible use of tax abatements is how we can also help offset the cost of some of these things. We certainly have a relationship with [the Texas Department of Transportation], we have great engineers that work in this county and maintaining and continuing to build that relationship with TXDOT and how we can work to find funding for projects with the mindset of trying to stay completely away from bonds and toll roads. To me, those are two things that should be put towards the bottom of the list of options and we should explore every other avenue we can find to find funding and the great thing I’ve seen recently, by the way is the [Capital Improvements Program] that the county started with this budget cycle. I’m so glad they did this because it’s something that’s been on my radar.

Mark Keough
Republican candidate for Montgomery County judge

Occupation: Representative for House District 15, Senior Pastor of The Woodlands Bible Church
Experience: Two terms as representative for House District 15, car dealer for nearly 30 years with Ford Motor Co. and Northside Lexus
Top priorities: Reducing county spending, developing a comprehensive county plan, law enforcement, transparency in government

What do you see as the most critical project or initiative to prevent future flooding in the precinct?
I think the biggest issue, and I have fought this, I fought it on the house floor, I’ve fought it in the Legislature is that we are able to hold down our spending and allow all this growth to increase our revenue for us so that we can increase and build our infrastructure and take care of the needs of this community. This idea that we’re taxing the community above the effective tax rate, this idea they we’ve gone since 1989 without a county homestead exemption and we’re one of 12 counties that didn’t until just recently, I mean that’s amazing to me. In the last 10 years we high-five each other about lowering the tax rates, the problem is we’ve lowered it 2 cents and increased appraisals by 140 percent and then you take the 20 percent homestead exemption, it’s a net of 133 percent in the last 10 years.

And we are increasing the rate on the people that built the community. It’s an increase in population plus inflation. I think we can do that and I’m excited about working at it the county and the state to be able to get it done. That’s the first thing I’d want to do.

The second thing that I think is crucial is a countywide comprehensive mobility plan. What we have now is a thoroughfare plan, it’s a huge spaghetti drawing. If you look at it, it’s just hard to tell what’s really going on. It’s just people’s ideas that they’ve put down, I’m not sure where it all came from but I will tell you this: South County has done a great job in working with HGAC and the Greater Houston Partnership to put together a plan in South County and we’re beginning to move the traffic, you can see it, it’s very exciting. The rest of the county has not done that, we’re lagging, I think sorely behind. And with community input, prioritized roads, with the commissioners, what roads need to be done and to get on those roads to complete the spending that we have available to us from the recent road bond that caused all the controversy and then develop a plan for the future. We know where roads are going to go, we know where the population’s going to go, well let’s just lay it all out, let’s get community input let’s put it together so we know where we’re going to go for the next 20-30 years.

Aside from flooding, what is the biggest challenge facing the precinct? How would you address that challenge?
I think certainly the flooding issue is a huge issue and in order to really determine what’s going is not easy, but they’re beginning to put a plan in place, I think once again, I think the biggest issue in our county probably more than anything Is to get our rising taxes under control and the only way you can do that is by getting our spending under control. I know what I just read and I know what they said that they did, well, gee thanks guys, we appreciate that after all this time, but the fact of the matter is there still is opportunity and what opening we do we must, we must increase our law enforcement. The sheriff is short 60-70 in deputies. Imagine this, just in Willis in one section, the Howard Hughes Corporation, and they have every right to do this, is putting in a section of The Woodland Hills with 4,000 homes. Just imagine, not just traffic, but where are all these people coming from, and are we increasing law enforcement, not to control people, but to ensure we have a safe environment and that it their primary responsibility, so I’ll do everything I can to help law enforcement, I love these guys, I love the first responders, I’ll do whatever I can to help them. I’ve already demonstrated that in the House of Representatives.

I came up with a contract with Montgomery County of how I’m going to govern, you can go online and you can see it and there are five principles to it on how I’m going to operate: it’s about our elected officials being servants, it’s about being elected officials who are transparent and beyond reproach, about being fiscally responsible. Everybody says they want to be fiscally responsible, even the democrats say that. How in the world can you be fiscally responsible when you’re supporting a party that is so contrary to everything that is fiscally responsible? But as a Republican, that’s what we believe, and then another thing I address in my contract is the mobility plan and lastly, and what’s really important—we forget about this—we love the state of Texas, we love the United States, but you know what? We are assigned as elected officials to Montgomery County, and because we are, Montgomery County first. It starts here, we are the greatest county in Texas. We’re going to raise the reputation, I really do believe this. I believe that we have an opportunity to take back some of the bad things that have been said about us and turn the county around so that we will be a shining light across the state. That’s my plan, I believe it can be done. Is it going to be done quickly? I don’t think so. But you know what? I’m anxious to get in. Put me in, coach, I’m ready.

How should the county address increasing traffic on roads with its limited revenue sources?
The actual roads and the actual areas in the four precincts of this county, I believe, even though everybody does not agree with everything that our commissioners do, I am looking forward to working with [Mike Meador], with Charlie Riley, with [James] Metts and of course with James Noack, because these guys are the ones that are responsible to take the resources they have and figure out ways to work through these mobility issues. I’m just one man and I’m telling you, I really do believe that these guys have got a lot of good things going for them and it’s their job to put that in place and it is my job to make sure that we have resources to do it. So as we go, we’ll have that opportunity and I will show the community that I am pro-transportation and I will work with these guys. I believe they’ll have some great ideas and we’ll put it together.

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Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.
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