Magnolia, January 16 – Other than Montgomery County Judge candidate Mark Keough’s discussion of the Tx-249 Tollway project, the Magnolia Area Republican Women hosted a somewhat sleepy candidate forum at Magnolia Parkway Elementary School last night for the candidates in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election.
The first question in the County Judge portion of the candidate forum was “Are you in favor of the Tx-249 tollroad and why?”
Keough, who is currently a State Representative, answered, “I’m not anti-roads. My complaint is who is paying for the road…It’s difficult to accept the fact that Grimes County gets a longer part of the road put in at no charge and no tolls. Our county government lobbied for a tollroad when the road could have been built at no charge.”
Keough added, “The real issue is lobbying in Austin and saying we wanted tollroads, and I have a real problem with that…If it’s a tollroad, people from Magnolia are the ones who take it on the chin when it could have been at no charge.” Surprisingly, Keough received thunderous applause, even though the Magnolia area crowd was Doyal’s long time constituency when Doyal was the Precinct 2 County Commissioner.
Doyal’s answer actually made Doyal appear terrible. The County Judge said, “TxDOT told us there would be no road in Grimes County without tolling 249 in Montgomery County. TxDOT told us it would be a tolled road, period.”
Doyal actually referred to TxDOT Commissioner Victor Vandergriff whom Doyal invited to the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on December 19, 2017, to tell the public that TxDOT wouldn’t built the Tx-249 Extension – as a tollroad – for a long time, if Montgomery County didn’t proceed with the construction. A few minutes later, however, Vandergriff admitted that TxDOT would build the Tx-249 Extension as a free road if Montgomery County didn’t build it as a tollroad.
Keough responded, “Montgomery County is paying for Grimes County to get its road? What is that about?! We have the opportunity to exercise clout and can leverage as the eighth largest county in Texas…why is everyone so happy about a tollroad when we don’t need it as a tollroad?”
Keough then noted that Vandergriff is the “person…who is taking money from TxDOT for lobbying.” Victor Vandergriff, the TxDOT Commissioner whom Doyal invited to Montgomery County last month, is now mired in a scandal for using public tax dollars to pay for his private lobbying for private clients.
Doyal discussed the accomplishments he claims, including a 1 cent tax rate reduction and a AAA credit rating for the County government. He also admitted that he worked in the private roofing business even after he began to receive a full-time salary as a County employee working for County Commissioner Malcolm Purvis. Doyal mentioned that he has “met the needs of this growing county.”
Keough criticized Doyal for “crushing people who didn’t vote for him,” probably alluding to Doyal’s “Hit List” after the 2014 Republican Runoff Election. Keough emphasized that he’ll work to unify the County’s citizens and their elected servants. Keough mentioned that “Montgomery County’s election is getting the attention of the entire state, because people are asking ‘what’s going on in Montgomery County’,” referring to the corruption within the County government under Doyal.
Doyal proudly proclaimed that, after the May, 2015, road bond failed, he worked “on a better bond issue.” Doyal didn’t mention that the “better bond issue” resulted in his, Precinct 2 County’s Commissioner Charlie Riley’s, and corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport’s indictments for alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Precinct 2 County Commissioner candidates’ forum: a triumph of somnabulism
The three candidates for Precinct 2 County Commissioner really didn’t have much to say. Challenger Brian Dawson said “we need a new approach to how to run the county government.” Gregory Parker told the crowd about his background as an army veteran and former 2-term County Commissioner as well as about his education. Incumbent Charlie Riley explained that he moved to Montgomery County in 1971 and has lived in this community ever since that time.
Dawson criticized the Tx-249 Tollway because “I don’t think we did an effective job of pursuing other funding mechanisms.” Parker said, “I understand the need for the road but I’m not in favor of it being tolled.” Riley said the tollroad is desperately needed.
The best answers came from a simple question, “What makes you the best person qualified for the job?”
Dawson answered that he has never worked for the government and that he believes “we need to look to the private sector for solutions.” Parker said that he has done the County Commissioner’s job before for 8 years and has managed large-scale information technology projects in the private sector. Parker added, “I think Charlie Riley is a wonderful man but it’s time to take Precinct 2 to the next level.” Riley responded, “I grew up in Montgomery County. I’ve been doing this job since 2001 when I was hired as the Precinct Operations Manager for Precinct 2.”
Incumbent County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport explained that, although she only has a high school diploma, she had 15 years of accounting experience and 7 years as a payroll administrator before she became the County Treasurer. Challenger Melanie Pryor Bush, who is the President of the Board of Trustees of the Conroe Independent School District, said that she has three undergraduate degrees from Southern Methodist University and has built a successful bookkeeping business that employees 18 people and works closely with certified public accountants and small businesses.
Bush criticized Davenport for refusing to release the County Treasurer’s procedure manuals in response to Bush’s request to review them under the Texas Open Records Act. Former County Treasurer Martha Gustavsen has agreed with Bush’s position that Davenport should release those manuals. “I want to look at them…, because it’s important that we as society know how our tax dollars are working…,” Bush said during the forum. Davenport said that she has included passwords and the ability to hack accounts in those procedure manuals and won’t produce them until the Texas Attorney General orders her to do so.
Davenport emphasized how well she works with other elected officials and the County Auditor, while Bush argued that the County Treasurer and other financial overseers should maintain independence from other County officials for a proper financial system to operate.
284th District Court candidates Jo Ann Linzer and Kristin Bays carried on a friendly discussion, which Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon moderated. Both Bays and Linzer emphasized how hard they’d work if elected. In response to a question from Linzer, Bays emphasized her Christian faith and explained that she has prayed a lot throughout her legal career. Linzer told the crowd that her favorite movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Montgomery County Clerk Mark Turnbull and his challenger Jeanie Stewart, State Representative candidate Jackie Waters, Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Walter D. Wilkerson, Jr. (who, by the way, gave the best speech), Wilkerson’s challenger Terrance Boggs, State Representative Cecil Bell, District Clerk candidates Melisa Miller and Cynthia Jamieson, and United States Congressman Kevin Brady all spoke briefly to the crowd.