The three Republican candidates—Incumbent Charlie Riley, Brian Dawson and Greg Parker—answered questions from forum moderator Anna Dembowski, editor of Community Impact Newspaper. Candidates responded in alternating order. Audience members also submitted questions during the latter part of the forum.
Here are notable comments from the candidates on some of the questions asked:
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Precinct 2 over the next four years, during which time you would be in office?
- Budget consideration
- Flood mitigation
- Budget cuts
- Conflicts of interest
- Agenda referendum on the county level
- Public safety
“One of the first things I did was secure $2.5 million for a police substation [in Magnolia] for the sheriff’s office. If someone is apprehended, we can put them there instead of taking four hours to go to Conroe. We can lock them up here and have a van come pick them up. Our patrol officer is back on the street within 30-45 minutes.”
“We need to do more to bring meaningful relief to our taxpayers … We need a commissioner that understands the relationship between assessed value and tax rate and the impact that has. A lower tax rate does not equal lower taxes … I have seen the tax rates lowered, but I have not seen taxes go down or stay constant.”
- Flood mitigation
“I will be updating the guidelines for the detention and retention requirements. The guidelines in Montgomery County are based on rainfall from 1974.”
How will you serve the Magnolia business community specifically?
Parker: “I do not want [business owners] to think the government has to be involved in [their] business. The government does not need to be involved in the day-to-day. The best way for me to be involved is to keep the taxes low and [improve] mobility issues … I want to keep government as small as possible.”
Riley: “Any business around here that needs something from [the county], I am a phone call away. Everyone here has my cell phone number—24 hours a day and 7 days a week. I do not want to tell you how to run your business. I am here for you, and I been here for you for the last 17 years. I will continue to be here for you. I have done exactly what I said I was going to do. I am going to continue to do what I say I will do. I will help any way I can.”
Dawson: “As far as helping, it is being involved in the community—someone who is committed to being present with you and being involved. We showed that when we moved here. My wife and I immersed ourselves in the community. On top of that, we do need to [lower] taxes. As homeowners, there is a cap on how much the assessed [home] value can go up. As business owners, you do not have that. As the county commissioner, I would use the bully pulpit to push legislators to better protect you. That will help spur the economic development and represent [business owners] on a [higher level].”
If elected, how would you address mobility issues in and around Magnolia?
Riley: “It is kind of obvious how we are addressing [mobility] right now with the roads that are under construction, [which are funded by the] road bond [voters] passed in 2015. I told people when we passed that road bond that mobility will be my No. 1 priority. It has been. I have 16 major road projects out of that roadway bond, either on the ground, under construction, in design or in the engineering phase. Four of those projects will be completed by mid-March. Two of the projects are already complete … That is the kind of priority planning we do in Montgomery County Precinct 2. We do have a mobility plan for Precinct 2 … You hear a lot about a county-wide mobility plan. That is nothing more than everyone putting their roads down on a list, and someone else telling you when you can and cannot build it. I do not want that for Montgomery County Precinct 2. I want to be in control of what we do in Precinct 2.”
Dawson: “Respectfully, [a mobility plan] is a little more than that. It opens us up to bring more tax dollars [to the precinct] that is not your property taxes or not from a bond referendum. It also shows government cooperation. It is not just a tool for the county but for the cities to lay out a full plan. We know what is going on … We need to be looking at five years or 10 years down the road. We do not need to just look at what is being done today to address the mobility needs. We have to bring in more strategic vision on how we adjust the mobility challenges in Montgomery County and [in] Precinct 2.”
Parker: “I agree. It is a lot more than simply putting down names of roads on a sheet of paper and hoping for the best. You have to look at population trends and goals. That is the key. We have to set up goals for exactly where these roads are going. With that being said, and I know some here are anxious to hear this, I am not for toll roads. I have been endorsed by individuals and groups that are opposed to toll roads. And, I am as well. I am for building roads, but not for having them tolled.”
How will you work with other county officials to make sure Magnolia residents and business owners are aptly represented in county discussions?
Dawson: “I have a relationship with nearly every elected official in county government. I think that is important. That is something that cannot be neglected when getting things done and representing the community. It is important we have someone who is committed to representing all of Precinct 2 and making sure that the interest of Magnolia, River Plantation [and] Woodforest are represented equally. It all fits together. The only people who see precinct lines in Montgomery County is us—the candidates or the [elected officials]. The residents do not see it. In fact, [they] should not see it. We should be working together seamlessly to provide for [the residents].”
Parker: “I do have a vision for Precinct 2 to be unified…not just Magnolia against The Woodlands. That is not what Precinct 2 should be about. It should be about all of us working together for a common goal to obtain results. With that said, I have been a county commissioner before, [and] several of the individuals in county government now remember me from those times. I am looking forward to bridging that gap … It should not be that type of friction. We should be together and unified. To do that, not only do you have to have relationships, you have to have the goal of the entire county in mind, not just Precinct 2.”
Riley: “When you sitting where I am sitting, you have to represent the whole county. There is no one in this room that can say I take care of one part of Precinct 2 more than another. I am everywhere. I go to 12-18 homeowner meetings every year … That is how you represent the people that you serve. You also have to know who is what position throughout the county … There is no division between Magnolia and The Woodlands. There is a small group in The Woodlands making all the noise.”
In regards to property taxes and county finances, what are your priorities, if elected?
Riley: “If you look at your tax bill, Montgomery County receives 16 percent of what you pay. For that, you get 53 departments that are funded. We ended up with a triple-A credit rating. Our taxes, bond rating and finances are in good shape. We are not the bad guys out here overtaxing you. It is not us.”
Dawson: “The county government is the biggest dog on the block. When the [Montgomery County] Commissioners Court passed the [20-percent] homestead exemption [in 2017], we saw multiple other taxing entities follow that lead. My contention is county government steps up and bring an end to the hidden tax increases that are based on assessments ... We will see that pressure gain on the other entities. We deserve a county government that leads from the front.”
Parker: “Commissioner Riley mentioned that we must be doing something right. But, that does not mean we cannot do things better. We can do something to reduce the budget, eliminate ghost employees, improve departments, reduce salaries for elected officials, use decision analysis within operations, create benchmarks, and use strategies and review evergreen contracts. There are a lot of things being used to continue to increase the budget.”
View the full candidate forum below. For early voting locations and sample ballots, visit www.communityimpact.com/vote. Early voting ends Friday, March 2.