Photo: Jason Fochtman, Staff Photographer / Houston Chronicle
With the Nov. 3 township election candidate filing period closed after Monday, the final slate of contenders for four seats on The Woodlands Township Board of Directors is set.
Five new candidates filed applications to be on the ballot on Friday and Monday, giving voters a total of 13 candidates vying for the four open seats.
Among those filing candidate papers on the last two days were three challengers to board Chairman Gordy Bunch, who is seeking his fifth term in office.
His foes include well-known voter activist Adrian Heath, who served three months in state prison for illegal voting in the 2010 Road Utility District No. 1 election; as well as prison psychologist and hostage negotiator Dr. Jerry D. Smith.
A third opponent to Bunch is likely well-known to residents; Ron Keichline filed papers on Monday — he lost the 2018 Precinct 2 county commissioner election by 32,000 votes to Charlie Riley.
Incumbent John Anthony Brown also found himself with an opponent for his Position 3 seat after a local resident named Royal Porter Putnam filed papers opposing the popular, two-term director.
Fellow incumbent Jason J. Nelson also saw a fourth candidate enter the race for his Position 2 seat after Amanda Beasley, a 2005 graduate of New Caney High School, filed papers on Monday.
Beasley’s entry into the Position 2 race means five candidates will attempt to be elected to the seat formerly held by now-retired Brian Boniface.
There are four candidates in total for the Position 1 seat, which has been held since 2012 by Bunch. The four-term incumbent was not challenged in 2018 and is seeking his fifth two-year team in office, he said, to help the township through the COVID-19 pandemic and assist new general manager and president Jeff Jones, who begins work on Aug. 31.
Challengers to Bunch include Adrian Heath, who served six months of a three-year prison sentence for illegally voting in the 2010 Road Utility District election after registering his address as a local hotel. Heath is against incorporation unless it includes all 11 municipal utility districts as part of a new city and also in favor of having all special purpose and municipal utility districts in The Woodlands being merged into one entity.
Ron Keichline ran for the Montgomery County Precinct 2 seat in 2018, losing by 32,000 votes to Charlie Riley. Although the township board is non-partisan and no candidates affiliate themselves with a political party, Keichline is a registered Democrat and would be the only publicly known Democrat to seek a seat on the board since 2017 when Carol Stromatt defeated then incumbent Laura K. Fillault.
The final candidate for the Position 1 seat is Dr. Jerry D. Smith, a psychologist who specializes in hostage negotiations, sexually deviant behavior of prison inmates and criminal gang deprogramming.
The race to replace Boniface has five candidates, including incumbent Nelson who was appointed to the seat on April 16 after the surprise resignation of Boniface due to being called into a six-month mission with the U.S. Army Reserves.
Boniface was replaced by Jason J. Nelson, who was appointed on April 16 to fill the remaining eight months on Boniface’s second term on the board. Nelson, a former star high school and college quarterback, is a pastor at the Rose Hill United Methodist Church. He immediately announced his intent to be elected to his seat days after his appointment.
Four candidates are vying with Nelson for the Position 2 seat, including two candidates who lost in the 2019 township election to Ann Snyder — Luis “Louis” Granados and Thomas Chumbley — as well as the first Black candidate in the township’s modern history, Jimmie Dotson. The final candidate is Amanda Beasley, who works in accounting at a local oil and gas industry company.
Granados, who will appear on the ballot as Louis Granados — enters his third campaign, albeit he only appeared on the ballot once before, in 2019. In 2018, Granados sought to unseat John Anthony Brown, but after leaving portions of his candidate application blank, he was removed from the race and did not appear on the ballot. He lost the 2019 election to Snyder after doing no campaigning.
Chumbley is in his second bid for a seat on the board, reiterating his message from his 2019 losing campaign that the township needs more leadership. A veteran of local politics on both the village association boards of the Village of Grogan’s Mill and the Village of Cochran’s Crossing, he now challenges Nelson for a two-year term on the board.
Dotson is a veteran policing official, having worked 24 years at the Houston Police Department, serving more than six years as police chief of Chattanooga, Tenn. and more than six years as police chief for Houston Independent School District. He is the first Black candidate for the board.
Beasley works in accounting services for a local oil and gas company. A 2005 graduate of New Caney High School, she worked for more than seven years as a barista at Starbucks before holding several other jobs at local companies.
Brown had no official opponents for his seat until the final day of filing on Aug. 17 when Putnam filed papers to try to unseat the incumbent.
A two-term incumbent, Brown is an executive with the Huntsman Corp. based in The Woodlands. A native of Philadelphia, Brown is a popular figure in the township from his time volunteering with the Ironman North American Triathlon to participating in the event in 2019 after taking up a friendly challenge to compete. He is also on the COVID-19 Budget Task Force as well as the township’s Development Standards Committee.
Brown will be challenged by Royal Porter Putnam, who filed candidate papers on the last day possible. Putnam is a resident of a neighborhood on the east side of Interstate 45.
Two-term incumbent Bruce Rieser has only one opponent in his effort to win election to a third two-year term.
Rieser was challenged in the 2018 election by Frank Dargavage, however he easily won re-election to his second term on the board. A semi-retired airline industry executive, Rieser is the chairman of the township’s Storm Drainage Task Force, is on the Visit The Woodlands board and is also on the three-member, newly-created COVID-19 Budget Task Force.
He is challenged by a very familiar face and name in The Woodlands, The Rev. Dan Hannon, the former senior pastor as well as founding pastor at Christ Church United Methodist on Research Forest Drive. Now retired, Hannon works as the chaplain for Interfaith of The Woodlands. He has been the motivational game-day speaker for The Woodlands High School football team since 1992.
The township election is Nov. 3, with early voting beginning Oct. 13.
There are several early voting periods: from Oct. 13-Oct. 17 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 19-Oct. 24; and continuing from Monday, Oct. 26 through Friday, Oct. 30, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is one Sunday early voting session, slated for Oct. 25 from noon to 5 p.m.
Towship directors are elected for two-year terms and are not paid. Once elected, directors are not able to be removed from office for any reason other than resignation. The board is non-partisan and has seven members who are assisted in meetings by the township legal counsel and general manager/president. Candidates wishing to be a write-in option must file a declaration of write-in candidacy no later than 5 p.m., Friday.