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2018 in Review: Woodlands board keeps busy, incumbents keep seats

December 28, 2018

The seven members of The Woodlands Township Board of Directors kept very busy in 2018, and after four incumbents were re-elected on Nov. 6, 2018, the board will remain the same in 2019.

Here is a look at the biggest stories in local political news in The Woodlands and Montgomery County.

November election sees all 4 incumbents victorious

The 2018 mid-term election was not expected to be any different than in prior mid-term elections, however a variety of political issues, the presidency of Donald J. Trump and an excited electorate from all parties made 2018 different than the previous eight mid-term elections.

For The Woodlands, the high interest resulted in a record-breaking number of voters for a mid-term election, but that large turnout did not lead to any significant changes as all four incumbents — Gordy Bunch, John Anthony Brown, Bruce Rieser and Brian Boniface — won re-election handily.

Rieser, who was seeking his second term on the board, focused his campaign on several themes, including flood and storm drainage issues, traffic congestion solutions and continuity in regard to the incorporation process. His opponent, Dargavage, took a strong stance against the township incorporating at this time, repeatedly claiming the process was shrouded in secrecy and was unneccesary.

Boniface’s largest obstacle to re-election seemed to be his attendance at township meetings, including the Board of Directors and on the DSC. Boniface had missed many meetings over 2018 and when he was in attendance, he often arrived late. Boniface was also chastised by a local resident — Enrique Rosero — who spoke during the public comment of a township board meeting, confronting Boniface about a social media post Rosero claimed was offensive. Boniface did not respond at the time, but later admitted the posting in question was his but it was merely a joke between friends and he did not view it as offensive.

Treva Taglieri, Boniface’s opponent in the Novmber election, did not incorporate the issue into her campaign, however her campaign manager also chided Boniface about his posting during a later board meeting, albeit saying that she was not speaking on behalf of Taglieri but from her private citizen role as a longtime resident of the community.

Both Rieser and Boniface easily won re-election despite their challengers’ efforts to earn a seat on the seven member township board.

The other two incumbents, Bunch and Brown, ran uncontested and also won re-election easily.

However, Brown’s seat on the board carried some additional drama after a local resident — Luis Granados —applied to be a candidate in the Nov. 6 township election. However, Granados did not fill in two mandatory boxes on his candidacy form where the length of residency of both Texas and The Woodlands needed to be filled in. The error led to Granados’ application being reviewed by the Texas Secretary of State office, where offficials rejected his application and he was removed from the ballot.

Unfortunately for Granados, the rejection notice came too late for him to reapply to be a candidate, resulting in Brown having no opponent. Granados filed an appeal of his removal from the ballot — which was the first time in the history of The Woodlands a candidate was removed from an election — with the Secretary of State office, but it was rejected after no wrong-doing was discovered.

The debacle led to township Board of Directors Member John McMullan to ask for changes to the township’s election policies, which were approved in December. Among the changes are quicker notification to a candidate if their application was rejected, as well as a more thorough review of candidate applications in an effort to catch errors such as what Granados did.

2018 begins with DSC controversy

In late December, 2017, the township board decided to not renew the terms of two members of The Woodlands Township Development Standards Committee — Deborah Sargeant and Chris Florack — instead choosing to replace the duo with two members of the township’s board: John Anthony Brown and Brian Boniface.

The move to replace Sargeant and Florack proved controversial, as numerous local residents spoke out against the appointments of Brown and Boniface, claiming the township had allegedly violated protocol in placing them on the seven-member DSC. Sargeant spoke at a meeting about the changes, claiming it was inappropriate and even suggesting she may take legal action.

Brown and Boniface joined the DSC, and over the duration of 2018, were credited by township officials with helping resolve several thorny issues, including a dispute with St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church as well as the infamous “monster house” on North Longspur Drive in The Village of Grogan’s Mill.

In May, one member of the DSC resigned — ??? — and he was replaced by Arthur Bredehoft. Following the November township board election, Boniface tendered his resignation from the DSC citing the need to focus more time on his family and new job. In December, the township board re-appointed Walter Lisiewski and Bredehoft to the DSC and tabbed Bala Iyer as a replacement for Boniface.

Doyal loses out to Keough, who becomes county judge

In Montgomery County, the biggest story was the defeat of incumbent County Judge Craig Doyal by Mark Keough in the Republican primary election in March. Keough, a former state representative, knocked Doyal out of the running for another term in a closely contested battle to compete against Democratic challenger Jay Stittleburg.

In the Nov. 6 general election, Keough easily defeated Stittleburg, who mounted a vigorous campaign with public outreach.

jeff.forward@chron.com

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