Q&A: John McMullan, former The Woodlands Township board of directors vice chair talks about his time on the board

John McMullan
Courtesy The Woodlands Township
John McMullan Courtesy The Woodlands Township

John McMullan Courtesy The Woodlands Township

John McMullan has served on The Woodlands Township board of directors since 2013, most recently as vice chair of the seven-member board. He did not run for re-election this year, and his seat—Position No. 5—was won by Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. A resident of The Woodlands since 2008, he works as an energy attorney in Houston and is married with four children. McMullan also coaches youth sports and is involved in the Irish-American community in the Greater Houston area.

What originally inspired you to run for this office?

I have been on the board for six years, and I ran for office because I believe in public service, and I felt I could make our community a better place. And I was able to serve in this role without sacrificing my career.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

In my six years we have increased the quality of services we’ve provided ... from a streetscape and amenity perspective ... while lowering not only the tax rate but lowering the amount of dollars the average homeowner pays to The Woodlands Township. When I joined it was $0.294 [per $100 valuation] and as I leave it is $0.224. That is a real record of cutting taxes.

The other thing I’d mention is that at a time when there is such political discord, I was able to build relationships all across the community and am especially proud that I governed in an inclusive manner. And finally, one other thing ... I have shown a flashlight on the township’s various subsidies ... and it will be interesting to see if it will continue to subsidize organizations and provide tax abatements. I think it’s tough to reconcile those subsidies when at the same time we’re looking to raise everyone’s taxes for incorporation.

Could you elaborate on your position on tax abatements?

It’s difficult to me [to understand why] we are going to give a tax break to certain companies and at the same time ask for a meaningful tax increase for [possible] incorporation. [The most recent vote on a tax abatement] was one of a series of votes I lost where I was the only no vote. Politicians always promise they are going to stand up for what’s right even if it’s unpopular, and I’m proud of that. ... I was on the losing side of a number of 6-1 votes, but those issues have not gone away and the next time a subsidy is facing the local government there’s going to be real opposition if they choose to grant another taxpayer subsidy.

Will you continue to follow the incorporation issue when you are out of office?

I will follow the process, and I will be watching to see if the board lives up to its commitment to show as best it can all of the costs associated with incorporation. The franchise fees [are] of vital interest and ... accurately show the full cost of the police force of The Woodlands. The other bit of advice I’d give the board is we have focused on what the costs are in incorporation, [so] it would be helpful as we get through this if we can demonstrate there are real, tangible benefits associated with incorporation. They are difficult to quantify, but they are real. If there is a police station in Creekside Park, that is a real tangible benefit, and I encourage the board to accurately present the cost and highlight those benefits.

Are there any unresolved goals you have you hope the board will revisit?

I hope the subsidies stop. It’s far past time; we don’t need to subsidize people to hold events in The Woodlands or do business in The Woodlands. The government should charge the same rate for everyone, and we could provide everyone, all organizations, the ability to operate in The Woodlands Township in a nondiscriminatory manner. In some cases we give people money. In other cases [we] waive fees and don’t charge the market rates. That needs to stop. I just hope we govern in an inclusive manner. ... It’s a special place that we want everyone to be welcome here even those with whom we disagree.

It takes real leadership to reach across the political divide and gain an understanding of peoples’ perspectives and issues.

What transportation concerns will The Woodlands face in the future?

We should end the trolley program, and eliminate or greatly reduce trolley—the fare-free trolley program in Town Center—and increase the scope of the park and ride programs. The park and ride program reduces traffic even if you’re not a rider—that reduces everyone’s traffic. The Town Center trolley program, it’s really a subsidy for those who own property in Town Center.

What is an area the board could focus more attention on?

Suicide prevention—if The Woodlands can afford the cost associated with incorporation, and we can certainly afford a tiny fraction of those costs dedicated for a full-time employee dedicated to suicide prevention. That was [a] 6-1 [vote against the proposal]. That was something some of the candidates were talking about in the election. This is a real concern, and this is something at every level of government underfunds mental health, and it’s something we should fund. ... Next year’s board should find the hundred thousand dollars to hire a full-time resource.

This article ran in the December 2019 edition of The Woodlands. Read the full e-edition here
By Vanessa Holt

A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of the paper in March 2017.


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