Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board election draws full slate of candidates, as RAW applauds citizen interest

Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board election draws full slate of candidates, as RAW applauds citizen interest

Image: Stuart Traylor of Conroe with his wife and all of his grandchildren but one. Traylor is the only candidate running unopposed for the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board.

Conroe, August 25 – Twenty-two individuals, including some prominent political names, filed to run for Board of Directors positions in the first citizen-elected Board of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD).

In Place 1, representing the territory of Commissioners Precinct 1, Stuart Traylor is the only candidate running unopposed. Traylor is retired from Bethyl Laboratories, is 68 years old, and a graduate of Conroe High School and Sam Houston State University. Traylor and his wife live in Conroe.

Three candidates have filed to run for Place 2, which is from Commissioners Precinct 2, centered in the Magnolia area. Jim Spigener, a retired oil and gas executive and prominent conservative-activist, is running and has already been campaigning energetically for a couple of weeks. Garry Oakley, who lives in the Woodforest subdivision, is also running but has a serious problem with his qualification to serve in the position. Oakley has also filed for the open seat on the Montgomery County Hospital District Board left as a result of the retirement of MCHD Board Chairman Kenn Fawn. Under the Texas Water Code, however, a person may not serve on the Board of a Conservative District if he or she also serves on the Board of another political subdivision of the State of Texas. If Oakley wins election to both LSGCD and MCHD, he would be disqualified from serving on the LSGCD Board. Scott Railey filed on the filing deadline of Wednesday, August 23, 2018. The 47-year-old Railey is a sales manager for a meat packing company.

Four people have filed to run for Place 3, which is from Commissioners Precinct 3, or south Montgomery County, with at least two very prominent names on the list. Jon Bouche, the Republican Precinct Chairman for Oak Ridge North, a member of the Montgomery County Republican Party Steering Committee, and Chairman of the Freedom and Liberty Conservatives Political Action Committee is a noted conservative activist. Bouche is also a renowed music group leader, as well as a realtor and insurance agent. Rick Moffatt, the current President of the Board of Directors of LSGCD and a reliable ally of the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) on the LSGCD Board, filed to run on August 23. Moffatt currently represents the Municipal Utility Districts east of Interstate 45, so it’s questionable whether he’ll represent the interests of the citizens or of those MUDs and the SJRA, if he’s elected. 45-year-old Richard Rankel of the Legends Ranch subdivision is also running. Rankel claims he is a retired 21 year veteran with 4 years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps and 17 years as a United States Air Force Master Sergeant. He claims he’s a career firefighter since 1996 and served as a member of the Harris County Emergency Services District from 2009 to 2012 and from 2016 to 2017. Rankel has also served on his homeowners association board in Harris County where he lived from 2014 to 2017. It’s unclear where Rankel currently works. While he was charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor in Yuma, Arizona, in 1999, Rankel was only found guilty on one count, criminal damage. He’s worked in a variety of jobs. Christina Moore moved to Montgomery County in late 2016. She is a 13-year attorney and works as in-house counsel in Houston.

In response to the initial publication of this article, Rankel contacted The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper. This newspaper asked Rankel, “Since we’re communicating, are you committing to end the GRP regulations and to fight the SJRA on its attempts to require groundwater users to utilize surface water instead?” Rankel responded, “That’s why I’m running. I’m tired of the outrageous way these water groups run up fees on the average citizens…”

Gail Carney filed first among the four candidates running for the LSGCD Board from Commissioners Precinct 4, which includes a large geographic area east of Interstate 45. Carney lives in Harpers Landing in The Woodlands. She grew up in Illinois and holds at least one degree in biology. Carney has taught in the Aldine Independent School District and served as President of the College Park Village Association. 39-year-old Jonathan Prykryl is a known conservative activist whose wife, Beth, serves on the Board of Trustees of the New Caney Independent School District. Nathanial Wells is a 28-year-old former safety advisor for ExxonMobil. Wells is one of the people who filed on August 23. Wells and his wife live in Montgomery Creek Ranch. Rafael Perez is a realtor who graduated from Conroe High School and Sam Houston State University.

It appears that all of the candidates who filed on August 23 are the pro-SJRA candidates who hope to continue to serve SJRA’s interests slavishly to keep water prices as high as possible and restrict groundwater use so that utility companies, homeowners associations, and municipalities are forced to purchase water from the monopolistic SJRA.

Three prominent citizens of Montgomery County filed to run for the countywide at-large position on the LSGCD Board. The very popular and highly-respected Harry Hardman, Regional Sales Manager for Silver Peak Software, originally comes from El Paso. The 57-year-old businessman has substantial business experience and is a highly respected citizen of Conroe. Gregg Hope, is a close ally of the SJRA and currently serves as a member of the LSGCD Board. Hope, the son of late State Representative Ruben Hope (R-Conroe), has consistently voted in favor of SJRA’s monopoly interests. Another entrant to the race for the at-large LSGCD seat is former Chairman of the Montgomery County Hospital District Board of Directors Francis Bourgeois. Bourgeois was a conservative who helped bring reform to the MCHD Board in the 2003 time frame and was allied with Bill Leigh, David Witt, and Eric Yollick as a reliable conservative vote on that Board before a full seven-member conservative sweep brought in an entire reform Board of Directors to MCHD in 2004. Bourgeois is a retired business executive and part-time mediator.

Webb Melder, the maverick dissenter on the LSGCD Board who is fighting for water reform alongside of the Restore Affordable Water (RAW) committee and who was a two-term Mayor of Conroe, is running for the LSGCD Board from the City of Conroe among a total of four candidates for that position. Melder is the leader of the RAW slate, which the political committee has not yet formulated since they haven’t vetted all of the candidates yet. Always controversial, Melder remains a highly popular and well-respected figure in Conroe and Montgomery County politics. Melder’s interview on “It’s Hammer Time,” the popular Facebook Live/YouTube show at MCP.TV, from August 24, 2018, is available for encore presentations now on Facebook and YouTube. Carlotta Lansford, the Controller for Avanti Senior Living, is also running for LSGCD for the Conroe position. Lansford is a Certified Public Accountant. The 57-year-old Lansford holds a Bachelors in Business Administration from Sam Houston State University. Jackie Chance, who appears to be the SJRA-backed candidate, has been in the water business for over 40 years as General Manager of Montgomery County Water Control and Improvement District #1. Chance filed to run from Conroe on August 23. Graesen Smith is a former church employee who has little background information.

The Woodlands Township position on the LSGCD drew three contestants one of whom is a very prominent citizen of south Montgomery County. Larry Rogers, the Chairman of the Montgomery County Tea Party Political Action Committee, a former Oak Ridge North City Councilman, and the Republican Precinct Chair for Voting Precinct 75 (Windsor Hills) is running to reform the LSGCD and to represent the Woodlands Township in doing so. Retired Woodlands engineer Kent Maggert, who has been active as a conservative gadfly and letter writer for several decades is also running for the position. The seeming SJRA candidate is Emery Gallagher, who works for a surface water treatment company in Houston.

Prominent conservative leader Larry Rogers, with his wife Suzanne and their two grown children. Rogers is running for the LSGCD Board from the Woodlands Township.

There are clearly several candidates who would appear to be running for the purpose of bringing reform to the LSGCD and ending the SJRA monopoly pricing over water:

  • Stuart Traylor, who is running unopposed from Precinct 1;
  • Jim Spigener, who is running from Precinct 2;
  • Jon Bouche, who is running from Precinct 3;
  • Jonathan Prykyl, who is running from Precinct 4;
  • Harry Hardman and Francis Bourgeois, both of whom are running at-large;
  • Webb Melder, who is running for re-election from the City of Conroe; and
  • Larry Rogers, who is running from the Woodlands Township.

The electoral contest shapes up as a classic reform versus establishment battle.

Restore Affordable Water (RAW) applauded the candidates that have stepped up to run for the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) and has invited all candidates running for LSGCD positions to partipcate in RAW’s formal endorsement process. Candidates should contact RAW through the RAW website by completing a candidate questionnaire.

RAW has stated in a media release that the reform group “continues to push back against the insider culture at LSGCD by highlighting common sense opportunities such as this to increase transparency and rate-payer access. RAW looks forward to debating the issues with current members of the LSGCD board that have chosen to run for the new elected board. Each of them will have an opportunity to defend their records in front of the people of Montgomery County.  How the current non-reform minded members will defend their actions’ that have caused a nearly two-fold increase in water rates in Montgomery County and allowed for the blatant wasteful spending of taxpayers dollars’ remains to be seen.”

“We look forward to debating the issues with LSGCD candidates and intend to fully support candidates that demand truth, transparency, and accountability from LSGCD,” said RAW President Simon Sequeira.

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