Q&A: Meet the candidates running for The Woodlands Township

Two races are contested for The Woodlands Township board of Directors this November. Learn a bit more about the candidates below before heading to the polls.

Treva Taglieri
Candidate for Position 2
Occupation: Stay-at-home mother and community volunteer
Experience: Degree in systems engineering, experience in aerospace industry, more than a decade of living in The Woodlands
Top priorities: Transparency, integrity, safety and security as outlined in Vision 2034
Why are you running for The Woodlands Township board of directors?

Because my children are growing up and becoming more independent, I want to set an example for them by being a public servant who demonstrates commitment and integrity.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge residents of The Woodlands currently face?

We are a very busy community.  People have limited bandwidth for attention so the biggest challenge right now is getting people focused and educated on the complex Incorporation issues.

Do you believe the Woodlands should incorporate in the near future?

If near future is 2019, my answer is NO.

If near future is after we assess and disseminate all of the choices that must be understood to develop a solid decision basis, POSSIBLY.

If near future is when we develop a comprehensive plan that accurately identifies all costs, benefits, and elements to preserve our current vision AND the plan is shared with the residents so they understand, then YES because there are some benefits we will obtain from incorporation (particularly increased latitude or jurisdiction over our community business).  We know that we have an endpoint—2057—so we should be working toward that goal in a way such that residents can make informed decisions when the time is right.

I'm Treva Taglieri and this is why I run.

Brian Boniface*
Candidate for Position 2

Occupation: registered nurse, six years of
service in the National Guard
Experience: two years as director, board
member for The Woodlands Convention
and Visitors Bureau and the Development
Standards Committee
Top priorities: safety, resources for first
responders, long-term financial planning
Why are you running for The Woodlands Township board of directors?

I am running for re-election because I want to ensure that our community remains a place where future generations can enjoy the same quality of life that we enjoy today. I believe that we bear the responsibility to make sure this happens and I believe that my first term has proven that I am committed to this.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge residents of The Woodlands currently face?

The biggest challenge our residents currently face is our inability to control our destiny. While the Township enjoys many benefits being a Special Purpose Tax District, there are also many limitations. Such limitations include access to federal funds in disaster situations like the flooding from Hurricane Harvey, stopping roadway projects that our residents overwhelmingly disagree with (such as the Woodlands Parkway, Branch Crossing, and Gosling extensions), and our ability to properly enforce our covenants and future ordinances. All of these challenges have prompted our current board to look to incorporation as a means to solve these issues and find out what that would look like.

Do you believe the Woodlands should incorporate in the near future?

As stated above, with the many challenges we face going forward, I believe that incorporation needs to be a viable option depending on the cost and timing. We currently have the right to incorporate to prevent being annexed by both Houston and Conroe by the year 2057, but we still don’t know the full costs associated with it. In order to find out, our board commissioned consultants to conduct a year-long study to show our residents the bare bones breakdown of how it will work and how much it will cost. You may recall a previous study from 2011 that is still cited by some today that showed outrageous tax increases to the tune of 73%. This was used to scare our residents in the 2016 election cycle. We aim to do better with this study and have been open and transparent all along the way. At the completion of the study, it will be up to the residents to decide where we go as a community as the power to incorporate will be in their hands. Our job is to bring them the best information to make an informed decision.

Francis “Frank” Dargavage
Candidate for Position 4

Occupation: retired military and
commercial pilot
Experience: MBA in economics, former
Top priorities: flood mitigation, mobility,
transparency related to incorporation
[email protected]
Why are you running for The Woodlands Township board of directors?

I’ve been listening to my neighbors and friends and relatives. We’ve been hearing a lot of issues; we listen to their opinions, I have to run because of the necessity thinking about the next generation
to follow us. We have to be concerned about leaving The Woodlands better than we found it, and I know that sounds like a cliche, but I think I had to step up and take my talents and time and try to help us out. New eyes, new ideas and a different perspective.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge residents of The Woodlands currently face?

I think the biggest challenge is maintaining our value, home ownership and the price to maintain what we have and continue to add on to what we’ve done in the past. [I want] to keep us on the right plan growing, keep doing what we’ve been doing and expanding at a slow pace. We have 39 years before we have to have to worry about somebody trying to snatch us up like Conroe or Houston. Laws are going to change, hopefully for our better.

Do you believe the Woodlands should incorporate in the near future?

No, I do not. I think that we’re going too fast right now. We’re spending an inordinate amount of dollars on studies for incorporation that the residents haven’t even approved. They’ve allocated $10.5 million in reserves for incorporation. Why are they doing that? Unless they have the idea that they’re going to incorporate come hell or high water. I know they have to have a vote, but ... maybe when they do the voters will not have full information in terms that will be easily understood.

Bruce Rieser*
Candidate for Position 4

Occupation: Consultant
Experience: Two years as township director, chairman of The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau, chairman of drainage task force, board member of The Woodlands Road Utility District 30-year resident of The Woodlands, three decades in airline industry
Top priorities: Drainage, mobility, building sales and hotel tax revenue to keep property taxes low
Website: www.rieserfortownship.us
Why are you running for The Woodlands Township board of directors?

I don't think that the work's been done yet. Obviously we're in the middle of an incorporation study and I think I've done a pretty good job in two years on the board. [On The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau board] we haven't been declining in the last two years. We've had two back to back great years 2017 was a record year. We collected a little over $8 million in hotel taxes, we're on pace this year to eclipse $9 million. So we've had two tremendous years over there I've really enjoyed that part of the work turning the organization from a public events planning organization into a really outstanding marketing department and I'd like to continue to do that. That part's a lot of fun for me. We've still got drainage issues to get resolved, I don't think that work's done so those are the major reasons why I've decided to come back for another two years.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge residents of The Woodlands currently face?

It's going to be a combination obviously of mobility and drainage. Obviously, traffic is increasing and I've seen traffic studies in the last couple of weeks from Brown & Gay that indicate that as much as a doubling of traffic at some of our major intersections within the next five to seven years. Obviously that's concerning. So there's a lot of work that needs to be done there. We're working on a proposal now for an underpass at Grograns Mill and Research Forest to try and alleviate a little bit of the issue up on the north part of The Woodlands to get that traffic through a little better. That's a terrible intersection, it's the second busiest intersection in the county and I think it's the most dangerous intersection of the county. We have a wreck there almost every week. We really need to do something about that, it's a real problem for Shenandoah and The Woodlands residents that live north of Research and people who are trying to get to Research Forest from Grogan's Mill northbound it's backed up all the way to Hughes Landing Boulevard, so we really need some relief in that area. I was the one who actually suggested that we go back and talk to Shenandoah and see if we could find some common ground on how to fix that intersection.

Do you believe the Woodlands should incorporate in the near future?

Yes, I do, at least I think the residents should be given the option to look at it. The arguments against it, which are we're protected from Conroe and Houston until 2057. Well, I agree, we are. But the problem is, if we don't get control of our geography, when I see traffic studies that indicate that kind of traffic level increases, it's not because it's Woodlands people, it's cut through traffic from the north and the south and the west that are going through The Woodlands to access I-45 or 249 or whatever because our population is pretty much where it's going to be. We're at about 117,000 now, we'll go to about 120,000, but that's it. So at some point, I think that's one of the primary reasons why incorporation has to be looked at is so we can get control of our geography, get a seat on the [Houston-Galveston Area Council] and try to get funding for projects that we desperately are going to need to make sure we don't turn south county into a total gridlock situation. In the end, when it comes to whether we incorporate or not, my vote isn't any ore important than anybody else's because it's the community that will decide. I just think that knowing what I know now about a lot of the things that we have been told over the years. For example, that we would have to take in all of the MUDs right away and we would lose all county services and we'd have to pay for all the additional law enforce that the county is paying for, we found out during the study that in fact the county sheriff has been providing the jailer and the jail, and SWAT and special investigative units free of charge to municipalities all over the county. That wouldn't change with incorporation. The other reason is, what we're finding out, is a lot of this would depend on negotiating with the county, with law enforcement, with Harris County as well and with the state, etc., right not the woodlands is 20 percent of the total county population and we've got about 38 percent of the total tax base in The Woodlands. As the county continues to expand our influence goes. We're actually in pretty good position right now to actually have some leverage in negotiating. There's no question when we're paying the lion's share of the property taxes in the county, we don't get the commensurate level of service that we're paying for. We don't get 38 percent of the total county services.

By 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.