Election Q&A: Meet the candidates for The Woodlands Township board of directors Position 1

Incumbent Gordy Bunch and challenger Jerry D. Smith, Jr. are seeking Position 1 on The Woodlands Township board of directors. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Incumbent Gordy Bunch and challenger Jerry D. Smith, Jr. are seeking Position 1 on The Woodlands Township board of directors. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Incumbent Gordy Bunch and challenger Jerry D. Smith, Jr. are seeking Position 1 on The Woodlands Township board of directors. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)



HOUSTON



The Woodlands Township board of directors Position 1







*denotes incumbent


Responses are edited for length and clarity.





Jerry D. Smith, Jr.



Occupation: psychologist


Experience: clinical psychologist, former federal law enforcement officer and hostage negotiation team leader, business consultant and leadership development coach






What do you feel are the most important issues facing The Woodlands Township in 2021 and beyond?



JS: Traffic, business development/diversification, preserving the greenery and way of life/community are the biggest issues for [The Woodlands Township] in 2021 and beyond.



Do you feel the township should revisit the topic of incorporation; if so, when and how?



JS: Yes, The Woodlands Township should revisit this issue by formally completing the study, presenting the findings to the public, and placing on the ballot at the earliest opportunity.


What should The Woodlands prioritize in its budget in the next two years, and how should it fund new needs?



JS: My experiences as a former psychologist, federal law enforcement officer, business owner, bi-racial individual, and military brat who has lives in multiple countries gives me a unique perspective on our community and the issues we face. I bring a different set of eyes and problem-solving abilities that only someone having to navigate so many different aspects can bring.



How do you feel your experience will help you to serve as a board member?



JS: The Woodlands should prioritize in the budget improving the natural environment and increasing the sense of community in the next two years while reducing the overall budget where possible. New needs should be funded through the sales tax reserve fund as available.








Gordy Bunch



Occupation: president and CEO of The Woodlands Financial Group (TWFG)


Experience: served as The Woodlands Township chairman, treasurer and secretary; chairman and treasurer of The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau, chairman of The Woodlands-Conroe UZA (Large Urbanized Area); Economic Development Partnership board member, The Woodlands Chamber Executive Committee and chair of The National Coast Guard Museum Capital Campaign.






What do you feel are the most important issues facing The Woodlands Township in 2021 and beyond?



GB: COVID-19 and oil and gas impacts on our local economy. The business capacity restrictions, previous statewide stay-at-home orders and the drop in oil and gas prices are having a compounding effect. The Woodlands Township has deferred action on our incorporation study as well as our performing arts facility study in 2020. Both need to be picked up on the other side of COVID-19 and ... completed. Flood mitigation, subsidence and long-term water supply need to stay on the radar to ensure the long-term viability of our community.



Do you feel the township should revisit the topic of incorporation; if so, when and how?



GB: Yes ...The pros are permanent elimination of Houston and Conroe extraterritorial jurisdiction annexation rights; [the] ability to consolidate [municipal utility districts]; Ordinance of Law authority; tax freezes for 65 and older; new revenue sources, [Houston-Galveston Area Council] voting membership and local control within our boundaries. The cons would be costs associated with providing additional services. This decision belongs to our residents, and they should have an opportunity to vote for or against incorporation once the study is completed.



What should The Woodlands prioritize in its budget in the next two years, and how should it fund new needs?



GB: The Woodlands is nearing residential buildout and will need new non-property tax revenues to help keep our tax rates low. Expanding The Woodlands Convention Center and building a performing arts theater can help expand our hotel and sales tax base. Future boards need to ... look at ways to optimize or improve how services are being provided. Our current and past boards have maintained strong reserve balances. This has allowed us to lower the 2021 tax rate and manage through COVID-19 revenue losses without having to reduce service levels.



How do you feel your experience will help you to serve as a board member?



GB: I feel my 8½ years of The Woodlands Township Board experience helps me serve our residents. The accumulated knowledge and experience will also help me transition our new president/general manager Jeff Jones. I have been a part of nine township budget processes where under my tenure our boards have reduced the property tax rate 32%, reduced total outstanding debt 62.5% and increased our hometowns’ cash reserves by $43,.6 million representing an 83.2% improvement in cash on hand.




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 that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.