Candidate Written Interview
1. What specifically do you personally expect to get out of being on the Township Board?
My family moved here in 1974 before The Woodlands was developed. My father, Coulson Tough, was hired by George Mitchell to be part of his original “dream team” of visionaries who initiated the planning and development of The Woodlands. I have had the unique opportunity to participate in many of the activities from the beginning of the development and to experience the foundation of The Woodlands by the pioneers to the present day transition from the Community Associations to The Woodlands Township.
I love The Woodlands and I want to continue the dream and vision of George Mitchell for my four children and the residents of The Woodlands. Our transition to a central government in The Woodlands Township is another step in our ultimate future. In order to continue that dream and planned development to maintain our hometown, we need experienced leadership.
I offer my leadership and past experience from serving 10 years on the Woodlands Community Association board and five of those years as president of The Woodlands Community Association to maintain and continue the hometown dream of The Woodlands. I also currently serve as Chairman of The Woodlands Community Service Corporation and president of The Woodlands Fire Department having served in those capacities for the last seven years. I also would offer my government and legislative experience providing management oversight and policy review experience to the Community Associations. I have managed the budget of the community over the last 10 year period and served as a trustee on the Conroe Independent School District Board as the current second vice president and chairman of the audit committee with an approximate Three Hundred Million Dollar ($300,000,000.00) budget for the school district.
2. What are the primary resident values that you will use to prioritize your decision making for the villages?
First and foremost, I am a resident of The Woodlands and live in the Village of Cochran’s Crossing. I serve my village constituency and all the people of The Woodlands with the perspective as a resident. I interface with the associations continually to make certain that all decisions by The Woodlands Community Association are prioritized with our villages in mind. I will continue to do that when serving on the Township board.
3. What are the primary commercial values you will use to prioritize your decision making for the business community?
There must be a cooperative and cohesive working relationship between the commercial and residential interests of any community or city. One will not succeed without the other. There is no way that a resident community can succeed without commercial interests because the tax base would not support the basic residential services. The mission of George Mitchell was to work, live and play in The Woodlands. Work means having employment and business interests healthy and active in The Woodlands community and to make The Woodlands attractive for the retention of jobs and for future businesses to relocate here.
4. Do you believe that resident issues or commercial interests are going to be your biggest challenge?
From my past as the president of The Woodlands Community Association, the resident issues normally take a top priority because that is who comes to the board for their concerns and issues. The basic reason for that is that have 85,000 individuals who live in the community and they will have concerns and problems that will need to be addressed by the Township board. My experience in the past has been to find a resolution for the resident issues, calling upon my past experience where I have resolved issues successfully such as the proposed overhead power lines, closing of streets or opening of thoroughfares, adding additional pathways, the sound wall, cooperative shared use of facilities, accommodating expansion and growth in the community and adding to our parks and recreational facilities to keep up with growth.
5. What is your position on the future government of The Woodlands? For example, do you support incorporation?
I feel that eventually The Woodlands will become a city and I support having an election by the people to determine whether The Woodlands should incorporate. I do not presume that I know what the residents will decide, but I would support the offering of an incorporation election prior to 2014.
6. What is your view of the relationship between the associations and the Township during and after transition?
I expect that the Associations and the Township will need to work together cooperatively to achieve a smooth transition fore the city type services from the Associations to the Township. Anything short of complete cooperation and the continuation of providing the exemplary services to our residents will be unsatisfactory and unacceptable to me.
7. What is your vision of maintenance services for the community in the transition and afterwards?
In the drafting of the Transition Agreement I made sure that our city type services will be continued and maintained in a superior fashion because they will be provided through the three year transition period by The Woodlands Community Service Corporation, the entity currently providing those services. We will have sufficient sales tax revenue and ad valorem tax base to provide those exemplary services expected by the residents of The Woodlands. However, once the community is built out, the sustainability of providing high quality services will become an issue and a challenge, as it is with any city. Therefore, a sufficient tax base, coming particularly from commercial property and sales taxes, to support the continuation of these services is essential. Sustainability of growth and development will be a future concern of the Township
8. What is your vision of the associations’ role in the future of The Woodlands?
My expectation is that the Woodlands Community Association, the Woodlands Association, and the Woodlands Commercial Owners Association will dissolve or will remain dormant because the service delivery will be transferred to the Woodlands Township. The next few years have us moving to one central government entity to provide the services and a “one stop shop” for answers and responses to the residents of The Woodlands. I expect that the roles of the village associations will become even more important providing grass roots input to the Township.
9. What changes would you like to see from our fire department over the next two years?
I am the current President of The Woodlands Fire Department and have served as its president for seven years and served as a director on the Fire Board for nine years. Our fire department is our public safety entity that is provided today under the direction of the community associations. The fire department will increase its capacity with the completion of our new Fire Station 6 in College Park along 242 and the completion of our fire academy on I-45 close to Harper’s Landing. The fire department needs to continue to grow with the construction of Fire Station 7 in the new Village of Creekside Park and to plan for Fire Station 8 in the Village of Indian Springs. In addition to providing increased fire protection, these new improvements are intended to lower insurance premiums for The Woodlands residents. I see the fire department changing from traditional fire fighting to emergency response for hazardous waste spills, car accidents, and other emergency response issues. That has been the transition for fire departments throughout the country. Offering the most up to date, effective and efficient fire and emergency medical services to our residents will be my top priority.
10. What are your ideas and vision for the tax structure for residents and businesses here?
Under law, the property tax structure for the residents and the businesses will be identical. The property tax implemented by the Township would be in lieu of the community association assessments and it, together with the general sales tax, would provide overall tax relief to the residents. In the past, the residents have borne most of the burden of community financing through their property based community association assessments. That will change. Furthermore, the new Township property tax will be deductible whereas the community association assessments are not.
11. What is your position on the parks, trees and amenities provided throughout The Woodlands? Also please add any relative comments on the development of the Village of Creekside Park?
The two most important criteria factors that bring people to The Woodlands are our trees and our schools. To maintain that current structure is my top priority. I have done that through my service as a trustee on the Conroe Independent School District. I am committed to maintain our parks, trees, and amenities by implementation of a tree reforestation plan throughout The Woodlands and to maintain the existing trees throughout our community by means of a forest management program. As we continue to expand with the addition of new homes and streets, our forest declines and we must constantly replant and reforest those areas to achieve the same quality wooded environment. In connection with our amenities, I have been a consistent proponent of upgrading our older parks and building new parks and sports parks for the enjoyment of our children and residents. The development of Creekside Park has included the expansion of recreational and sports field activities as well as a five-mile linear park along Spring Creek.
12. If you have any additional statements you believe residents or storeowners should hear reflecting your personal commitment to their welfare, please try to enumerate in 50 words or less.
12. I have offered my candidacy to serve the residents of The Woodlands on The Woodlands Township Board because this is a critical juncture in the transition of government in The Woodlands. In 1999 I was elected as a director to The Woodlands Community Association Board of Directors and was elected as the president of that board and served for five years from the year 2000 to 2004. During that time I took a lead role in the study of our governance in order to prevent the annexation of The Woodlands by the City of Houston such as happened to Kingwood in 1999. I, along with Joel Deretchin, President of The Woodlands Association and the Community Owners Association and five others came up with a plan of action to prevent annexation of The Woodlands and to educate residents so that we would be prepared and able to provide an alternative to annexation by Houston. From the outset, I have served as co-chairman and founding member of the governance foundation committee; as co-chairman of the governance process committee and co-chairman of governance steering committee. During the 10 years that this process evolved, I traveled to Austin many times to testify in support of legislation which would prevent the City of Houston from annexing The Woodlands and to support enabling legislation that would allow the limited purpose Town Center Improvement District to become The Woodlands Township. That legislation, in addition to expanding the boundaries of the TCID to become community-wide, also gave voters the right to elect a seven member governing board from our community; to implement a tax deductible property tax which together with the sales tax, paid in large part by visitors to The Woodlands, will lower the overall tax burden on all of us. I support the will of the residents to have an incorporation election and to make decisions as to the future governance of The Woodlands. I have always supported the resident’s right to choose the future government of The Woodlands and I will continue to work for the residents and their right to determine their own destiny.
Candidate verbal interview
1.Personal: It seems you will be extremely busy with all of your responsibilities, assuming you are elected to the board. How do you plan to manage all that you do – family, business, association (service company), etc? Also, as part of this, would you elaborate on what your plan is for your participation on the school board, should you be elected to the Township board?
When I worked downtown, the commute made it a big challenge. Now that I have moved my business out to The Woodlands, for the past five years it is much more manageable. My business office is here and the clients are mostly here. I can attend meetings, events, and functions to stay abreast of what is happening in the community. My family comes first, work to provide for them comes next and then the community. All of these seem to work together quite well. I can manage the time effectively
2. Fire Department: You have stated that you want to see a transition in the fire department toward emergency response issues. Since we already have firefighting teams serving in that capacity, in a few words, what changes do you envision to accomplish that transition and to what degree of change?
Fire fighting has changed a lot over the years. I have served on the board for the fire department for 8 years. I am President now. We have built three stations since I have assumed a position on the board. Going forward, we will build a new station for Indian Springs, the new village and complete those being built. Our fire fighters respond to many types of incidents. We are the first responders for emergency services for resident health as well as fire issues. Inter-local agreements are in place with Conroe and other surrounding areas for mutual aid. I see more of the same. We have the best Hazmat team in the county. Our policy in response arrival time is five minutes. The station built at 242 serves the hospital, Harpers Landing and many stores and residences nearby. We coordinate with the other departments and will continue to look for more opportunities to improve efficiencies. The new fire station #6 and the training center are funded by sales taxes. This exemplifies the creative partnership that the Township has with the association. Traditionally, sales taxes pay for the fire department in city governments. Next year we should be able to have lower insurance rates from the upgrades this year. We have started work on this already.
3. Personal: How do you vision using your legal skills to the advantage of the community over the next three years? Do you believe you will need to be going to Austin again in the next legislative session?
Everyone’s skills are required in working together to provide the leadership necessary for our success. Being an attorney does provide added value. These days, we have a very complicated society. In this age of electronic information, processing information has become a challenge. My added value is in the interpretive skills I possess to process the information. I also have many resources to draw from, to make decisions. I do anticipate going to Austin this next year. I have been there every year since I started serving The Woodlands. I can give one or two examples of what I have done to show you what occurs every session. I worked with others to protect the fire department (and your tax dollars) for limited liability. I had to testify in the legislative session to get those bill passed to protect us. I went to Austin for the Entergy overhead line issue. I coined the slogan “Underground or go around”. I also went to Austin to testify to expand TCID and to obtain sales taxes. I also testified on changing the eleven-member board to a seven-member board. We no doubt must continue to seek legislative assistance to help us achieve a higher level of excellence. We seem to always face issues with how we receive water and sewage services. I anticipate that I will go to Austin to supplement our taxing authority with an ordinance-making authority, as well as some other process enhancements to help us be more effective and efficient.
3. Law Enforcement: How do you vision using your legal skills to the advantage of the community over the next three years? Do you believe you will need to be going to Austin again in the next legislative session?
This service has been one of my primary concerns since elected. In 2000, I chaired the committee working on law enforcement. We felt that we did not have sufficient policing manpower for the growing community. The sheriff then could not provide us with much information; therefore we studied the situation and made some conclusions, then acted on them. We had many teens die here in auto accidents and other tragedies. So we enhanced the patrols and educated the public on the alarm issues (time waster for our police officers). One of my missions is to have improved safety. We have a constant ongoing effort to study the issues and improve the services. The budget has been increased from $350,000 in the year 2000 to $1mm in 2004 to $2.7mmm today. Part of the solution was political, changing the Sheriff. Our consultant recommended the new beat model; we adopted it and it is in place. I served on this committee for the last ten years. Now we need to look at the Town Center contract and find the efficiencies to make the model work for all of The Woodlands. The pieces are in place and we have the resources to make one model for all of The Woodlands. We have been and will continue to be proactive in making this a safe community.
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Content approved for publication by Bruce Tough