Election Q&A: Three candidates running for Bellaire city council Position No. 5 share priorities, challenges

Seven candidates are running for a shot at one of three positions on the Bellaire city council. See who is running on the ballot for Bellaire City Council Position No. 5. The current council member in that seat, Michael Fife, will term out of office, and will not be able to rerun in the upcoming election. Early voting is Oct. 18-29. Election day is Nov. 2.

Check out links to answers from other Bellaire City Council candidates in their races:

Position No. 1

Position No. 3

Brian Witt

Occupation: I worked in finance for 20 years before starting a residential property management business.

Experience: 20 years in finance and real estate; Four years, Bellaire Environmental Sustainability Board, two as vice-chairman

How does your experience make you the best candidate?

BW: My work experience, along with my four-plus years on Bellaire's Environmental Sustainability Board (two years as Vice Chairman) have taught me that the best path to setting and achieve goals is by asking the right questions and listening to the answers. As a member of City Council, that knowledge, my willingness to collaborate, and my extensive financial background will prove valuable serving the City of Bellaire. I will be an insightful and careful steward of our city's resources and a representative who genuinely cares to make life better for everyone who calls Bellaire home.

What are your highest priority agenda items?

BW: a. Flood mitigation and drainage solutions; b. Responsible budgeting and spending that serves both the current and future needs of Bellaire residents; c. Ensuring that our police and fire departments have the resources and staff they need to keep our community safe.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bellaire right now and how would you address them?

BW: Flood mitigation: Flooding continues to be an issue for our city. We should continue to work with Harris County and other entities on flood mitigation and drainage issues, while also seeking local solutions. Safety: We are privileged to have our own dedicated police and fire departments, but we need to ensure that they are fully staffed and have the equipment and technology they need to effectively protect our community. New Development/Redevelopment We should use a balanced/fair approach to bringing the amenities our citizens desire without sacrificing the quality of life of nearby residents.

What qualities would you look for in a future Bellaire city manager?

BW: Honesty, experience, accountability, intelligence, and transparency. We need a city manager who is fair and unbiased, who is a consensus-builder and a good communicator, both with city council and with the public. We need someone who understands that we are a city of homes and will guide our city with integrity.

Andréa Ehlers

Occupation: HRIS IT Manager/Project Manager - Enterprise Resource Planning Systems (PeopleSoft, SAP, SuccessFactors, Workday, Kronos)

Experience: President, Friends of the Bellaire Library

Campaign Website: www.ehlers4bellaire.com

How does your experience make you the best candidate?

AE: My work requires me to be a strategic thinker, solution architect, change manager, and developer of people. I am judged based on my ability to execute full-cycle implementation and improvement programs and projects that optimize organizational outcomes. Critical to that is the ability to maximize human capital performance and be able to communicate in an easily understandable and approachable manner. These skills are all critical for a city council member, as the operations of the city are diverse in nature, from public safety to infrastructure maintenance to citizen satisfaction. My entire skill set will be utilized in this position.

What are your highest priority agenda items?

AE: 1. The city’s debt load. 2. Flood control/mitigation projects. 3. Bringing back the “city of homes” Seal/Logo/Branding. Of course, I also want to encourage and increase citizen involvement in the city’s operations and make sure all the city’s activity is as transparent and easy to access as possible. I also want to ensure the quality of life in Bellaire and that we maintain, at an acceptable cost, the municipal amenities that enhance our lives. Finally, I want to make sure we are supporting local businesses. There are a number of businesses that have been in Bellaire for decades. They deserve some appreciation from the city also.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bellaire right now and how would you address them?

AE: 1. The City’s debt burden has crippled Bellaire to the point where improvements such as improved bathrooms at Evergreen Park or toilets at Mulberry Park must compete with Bellaire’s debt obligations. Meanwhile, West U[niversity Place] plans to lower its tax rate to $0.278522 per $100 of assessed value due to decreased debt. 2. The City’s management infrastructure appears to be unraveling. Under the previous city manager, Bellaire became embroiled in several lawsuits. Now we find that the current interim city manager mismanaged meeting the requirements for FEMA's [Federal Emergency Management Agency’s] Community Rating System resulting in a loss of flood insurance discounts for residents; responded haphazardly to the February freeze; ... the list goes on and on … This situation must be addressed quickly.

What qualities would you look for in a future Bellaire city manager?

AE: A person in the role of city manager must be someone who is intelligent and financially astute. They must conduct the business of the city in the most honest, open, fair manner possible based on a fiscally conservative approach. Someone who has top-notch communication skills and possesses a vision for the city that meshes with the citizens’ vision. I would put less weight on the number of city management positions this person has held, and more on the ability they have shown to manage people, processes, technology, and budgets. Planning, preparation, and forward-thinking are also desirable traits. We need someone who will come to appreciate the city as much as the rest of us do. That person would need to keep the best interests of the city and its citizens in mind at all times and seek citizen feedback.

David Montalvo

Occupation: Student

Experience: Attends city council meetings, civically involved

How does your experience make you the best candidate?

DM: I am very much involved in civics and current events. To get a better understanding of local government, I started attending city council meetings as I neared the end of my college undergraduate years. Even though I am back in school doing a master's, I still want to effect change in my community and set an example for others to step up.

What are your highest priority agenda items?

DM: Property taxes, jobs, flood insurance discount that Bellaire missed.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bellaire right now and how would you address them?

DM: I would say that unnecessary spending is hurting Bellaire right now. I would cut back on services that are not needed in city hall. This could be a good start to reduce property taxes, then it could be offset with sales taxes and other amenities that can better serve Bellaire (as much as I would like to eliminate property taxes altogether).

What qualities would you look for in a future Bellaire city manager?

DM: Honesty and transparency.

By Hunter Marrow
Hunter Marrow came to Community Impact Newspaper in January 2020. Before that, Hunter covered local news in Ontario, OR for three years, covering municipal issues, crime, and education across Malheur County and across the border into Idaho.