Toth will not pursue changes to Woodlands elections, term lengths
Less than a week after proposing changes to the elections and term lengths for The Woodlands Township Board of Directors, state Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, has decided to not pursue his proposal in any manner.
Toth had said one of his numerous legislative priorities was to possibly change the terms of office for members of the township board from two years to four years. Toth also put forth an idea to switch the years elections in the township are held, moving to hold elections in only even-numbered years. The proposals would have needed pre-approval from the township board before Toth could submit a bill in the Legislature that would amend the township’s enabling legislation.
On Thursday, Toth said he was withdrawing the idea and will not submit any proposals. The township board never discussed the issue in public meetings and it was not on any meeting agenda for consideration or possible action.
“I will not submit this proposed legislation,” Toth said in a telephone interview with The Villager. “The Woodlands board discussed this in their closed executive session last night — they talked about it and decided to wait.”
Toth said he had been told that board members concerns about the legality of the ideas in light of the looming incorporation issue currently being discussed and analyzed by township officials.
“There were too many questions considering incorporation, so they put it on hold,” Toth said.
The idea of changing the length of terms and switching election years was news to many board members last week when Toth first made his ideas public. Five board members said they were unaware Toth was considering the changes, while township board Chairman Gordy Bunch said he had been told by Toth a few days earlier about the plan.
Bunch said in a previous interview that the idea of changing the timing of elections and the length of terms in office was problematic due to the unknown future of the township possibly incorporating. He said the proposal would need thorough legal vetting before the board could possibly even consider the proposal.
Changing the length of terms for the board is something six of the seven current board members thought was an idea with merit, as many had cited in prior interviews and election discussions that a two-year term is difficult because rookie board members often need a full year to merely get up to speed with board policy and protocol. The change to even-numbered year elections was another idea others had sought, mainly due to the fact that there is extremely low turnout in odd-numbered years compared to an even-numnbed election which are timed with presidential elections and mid-term elections.
“This (idea) came about after the 2015 election,” Toth said. “It was ridiculously low turnout that year.”
The Villager contacted township officials Nick Wolda and Don Norrell in an attempt to verify the details of the Wednesday, Jan. 16, closed executive session the board held, but neither official returned messages. An email sent to Bunch was also not answered.
Township board Member Bruce Rieser also declined to comment on what happened in the executive session.
“I am not going to comment on anything we discussed in the closed session,” Rieser said. “That is why it is closed.”