Local Election Guide

Jim Gentry Jim Gentry[/caption]

Jim Gentry

Hometown: Hinesville, Georgia (lives in Conroe)
Occupation: owns and operates Jim Gentry Builder

Why do you believe you are the most qualified candidate for the position?

I have the experience, the knowledge and the relational skills to do this job. The city operates very much like a business. You have to establish budgets, and you have to operate within those budgets. I have been doing that for 40 years. I have the most business experience. I have had to make a profit and make a payroll for 40 years. I have already served on the City Council from 2006-14, and I have a bachelor’s of business administration degree from the University of Georgia. Also, my [previous] eight years on City Council enabled me to know the council people, the city administrator and the staff and employees. I already have a relationship with many of these people, and that is a huge advantage.

What goals do you hope to accomplish if elected as mayor?

I think we would need to work with the surrounding cities in the county to pool our resources together for efficiency. One of my top priorities would be to get companies to come in to this technology park. We have an unbelievably nice technology park here, and currently we have no one in there. I think we need to bring companies to Conroe with high-paying jobs to put them in our technology park. I think another very important thing would be to begin to drill Catahoula [Aquifer water] wells as soon as possible to reduce the consumption of service water and thereby reducing the cost of our water. Also, [I would like] to keep our tax rate low.

What are some of the biggest challenges the city faces in the coming years?

Conroe is over 100 years old, so therefore we have water, sewer lines and streets that are that old. The second thing is putting in new infrastructure to accommodate the growth we are experiencing. In the next six years Conroe will grow by 27,000 people, and in that time it will reach a population of 100,000. Without water and sewer there would be no reason for people to move here. You also have fire and police protection needs. We are constantly going to need new fire stations. We need to purchase locations ahead of time and have a 10-year plan for fire stations and firefighters. I would also like to see the city police, sheriff and other legal departments work together to create a neutral ground where you could call criminals in and let them feel safe to discuss their activities and the possibility of stopping those activities.

What is your opinion about the city’s ongoing lawsuit against the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District?

My opinion is that unless you deal with the facts and the truth, you will never know how to deal with the issue. You must put politics and hidden agendas aside to resolve this problem. I think you have to work together with people; you have to be truthful and deal with the facts. That is what we have to do here. For six months out of the year, 50 percent of our water is consumed by sprinkler systems. Half of that 50 percent is wasted through overwatering. When I was on the City Council, along with the support of other council members, we established a water conservation position. We had an outstanding individual in that position for several years until he had to leave for health reasons. [As mayor], I would rehire a water conservation manager to implement an effective and educational water conservation plan.

Doris Hickman Doris Hickman[/caption]

Doris Hickman

Hometown: Jackson, Alabama (lives in Conroe)
Occupation: retired; formerly owned and operated Artisans Gallery

Why do you believe you are the most qualified candidate for the position?

I have been a resident of April Sound for 24 years, and my husband and I also owned a business within the city of Conroe. When we owned the business, I was very active in the chamber of commerce. I was on the first Downtown Revitalization Committee and several art groups, including the Conroe Commission on Arts and Culture and the Conroe Arts Alliance. In April Sound, I have been a member of Municipal Utility District No. 3 board of directors for 10 years, and I have been president for the last four years. In that capacity, I was one of the people who negotiated the annexation [of April Sound] with the city. I probably know as much about annexation as anybody. I also know about water issues. Our MUD board was the first to drill a Catahoula [Aquifer water] well so that we could stay out of the San Jacinto River Authority Groundwater Reduction Plan. I have learned a lot about infrastructure; our MUD board just finished building a new wastewater treatment plant. I understand infrastructure, I understand water issues and I understand annexation.

What goals do you hope to accomplish if elected as mayor?

My goal is to bring more businesses into Conroe. The turning point in the decision for the city of Conroe to annex April Sound was when Waterpoint [Premier Lakeside Venue] was built. At that point, it became profitable for the city to annex us to get the sales tax because sales tax is 60 percent of the city’s budget. To me, it would make more sense to promote businesses within the city instead of adding all of this new territory. I definitely think that we should annex as the city grows but in a more organized manner. I think we need to promote more businesses within the city to bring in more sales tax so the city doesn’t have to reach out and grab businesses that are built outside of the city limits.

What are some of the biggest challenges the city faces in the coming years?

Right now, the territory that we have is very large compared to comparable cities. [Conroe] infrastructure, the fire department and police are not able to keep up with the amount of territory that they have annexed so far. I think we need to play a little catch-up to get the infrastructure up to date before we go forward with outlying annexations. I am not against annexation; I think we definitely need to annex areas that are closer [to the city limits] and people who want to be annexed. There were a lot of people in April Sound who were very upset by the annexation, so I understand that. I also understand that the people living inside of Conroe could be upset because it is stretching the resources of the city so thin that the city is having to spend money on these new areas instead of keeping up with the infrastructure of the city as it is now.

What is your opinion about the city’s ongoing lawsuit against the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District?

That is a really hard issue because so much of the infrastructure has already been installed. I can’t see a way to go back and undo everything that has been done, but I definitely would like to see the second phase halted until more research can be done. When our MUD board was asked to join the San Jacinto River Authority GRP, we started looking for other alternatives, and we discovered that there was Catahoula [Aquifer] water. That is why we drilled our Catahoula well so we could be left outside of the SJRA GRP, because we would have liked to see more information at that time. It is not too late. I think they need to slow down and get more information to be sure of how much water is down there and how much water needs to be conserved before they go in fully with anything else.

Toby Powell Toby Powell[/caption]

Toby Powell

Hometown: Conroe
Occupation: owns and operates Powell Construction
www.whoistoby.com, www.facebook.com/toby4mayor

Why do you believe you are the most qualified candidate for the position?

I have served on the City Council, as mayor pro tem, and on the Conroe Industrial Development Corporation for eight years. I have served on the committees that are vital to the city while I was there [as a council member] from 2008-12. I also served on City Council back when it was 10,000 people here—not 75,000—in 1977-78. I have been there and done that. I also served on the Houston-Galveston Area Council for four years. We get a lot of grant funds from the H-GAC, and I was a director of their program in Houston. The city is putting in new sidewalks on Frazier [Street], [for example], and that is all from the H-GAC grant funds. We pay 20 percent; they pay 80 percent. The transportation buses running through Conroe also came out of H-GAC grant funds. These are all things that I started working on back in 2008 and 2009 [in City Council] that are just now coming to be. As mayor, you have to know how we are going to be able to raise our funds within our budgets. I serve on the Lone Star Family Health Clinic Board; right now I am the vice chairman of that.

What goals do you hope to accomplish if elected as mayor?

We need to prioritize our budget to make sure that we can help with the growth that is especially needed within our fire department. We are probably $60 million and 10 years behind on our growth there because of all of the annexations. We need at least five more fire stations now. That and increasing the police manpower will be my first priority. [It can be difficult because] if you get 70 applications for a police job, out of those 70 people you are probably going to get 15 to 17 policemen that you are going to want to have protecting the citizens. We are way behind on all of this.

What are some of the biggest challenges the city faces in the coming years?

We need to take a step back and catch up with the growth that we have already experienced. We have to protect our citizens; that is first and foremost. A smart man once told me five things a citizen wants out of his tax dollars. That is clean water, good sewer, good roads to drive on, fire protection and police protection. Those are the five essentials to life, and we have to make sure that we are up to par in those areas. The other areas are recreation, events, arts and crafts, theater and those things. We have to do that for quality of life, but the five essentials of life come first and foremost.

What is your opinion about the city’s ongoing lawsuit against the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District?

I don’t like any kind of lawsuit. The only winners in such [situations] are the attorneys, and the only losers are the citizens, since they are paid for by taxpayer dollars on both sides—the city and the LSGCD. I hope that the next mayor can, if possible, have the ability to sit down across the table from the LSGCD and air out the differences that seem to cause all of us to not trust each other. As mayor, I will work hard to understand the situation, and hopefully we can all work together [and]move forward toward a common goal that is best for our citizens.


Less than 7,000 COVID-19 cases remained active in Montgomery County as of Jan. 22. (Community Impact staff)
Montgomery County's active COVID-19 case count falls below 7K, 7 new deaths reported Jan. 20-22

Active cases in the county fell by several hundred this week, while COVID-19 hospitalizations among residents reached a new high.

“Hope is on the horizon,” Fort Bend County Judge KP George said at a press conference Jan. 4. “The vaccine is here.”
Vaccine distribution starts in Fort Bend County and more top Houston-area news

Read the most popular news from the past week from the Houston area.

One local health system leader said he expects everyone, including those under age 65, will have access to the vaccine within the next 90 days. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Houston-area health system leaders talk progress, hurdles during COVID-19

Officials from CHI St. Luke’s Health and UTMB Health said community members must remain vigilant as case counts climb but that they expect the current surge to peak by early February.

During a North Houston Association meeting Jan. 20, Jazz Hamilton—first vice president with the Retail Brokerage Services Group for CBRE—discussed how the future of retail will likely be shaped by the conveniences to which consumers have become accustomed amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pandemic-induced retail conveniences are here to stay, official says

According to Jazz Hamilton, first vice president with the Retail Brokerage Services group for CBRE, between January and November of 2020, consumers spent almost $550 billion online—a 33% increase from 2019.

The Montgomery ISD board of trustees met Jan. 19. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
Montgomery ISD adopts first legislative platform

“In any year, the stakes are high for public education,” MISD Director of Communications Justin Marino said.

Conroe ISD eyes funding, distance learning plans in 2021

Rice said CISD is well-positioned to address possible state funding reductions, and the district’s response could resemble changes made during the economic downturn in 2011.

The Conroe ISD board of trustees met Jan. 19 for its regular monthly meeting. (Screenshot via Conroe ISD YouTube)
Conroe ISD board approves Caney Creek attendance boundary changes, 2021-22 calendar

Board members also approved spending for 20 replacement school buses and annual safety and security projects.

Several bills have been filed pertaining to remote learning. (Courtesy Canva)
Remote learning plans for 2021-22 uncertain for Conroe, Montgomery, Willis ISDs

District data shows that an increasing number of students are choosing to attend in person.

In addition to vaccine hubs, there are also smaller community vaccine providers throughout Texas, such as pharmacies, that may also have the vaccine available. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
EXPLAINED: When, where and how Texans can receive the COVID-19 vaccine

As Texas is still in the early stages of rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine, many Texans are still unsure about where, when and how they can get inoculated.

Steve Hoffart, owner of Magnolia Pharmacy, hopes to be chosen as one of the county's five vaccination hubs. Lone Star Family Health Center in Conroe has already been selected as a vaccination hub provider, and the center began mass-administering doses at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds Jan. 20. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
Montgomery County poised for COVID-19 vaccine rollout

One vaccination hub is now open, but appointments filled up within minutes. Here's what we know about the county's distribution plan.