By STEFAN MODRICH
Candidates for Missouri City mayor and two at-large positions on the city council participated in a virtual forum Oct. 8 that was moderated by ABC13’s Erica Simon and hosted by the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Early voting for the Nov. 3 election started Tuesday and continues through Oct. 30.
Mayor Yolanda Ford, who was first elected in 2018 after defeating Allen Owen, will face off against challengers Fred G. Taylor and Robin Elackatt.
Ford has a master’s degree in architecture from Prairie View A&M and a background in urban planning. She is a member of the Institute of Architects (AIA), the American Planning Association (APA) and the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA).
Ford, who served for six years on the city council representing District A, said one of her top immediate priorities is to increase commercial and retail growth in Missouri City.
“Our city has lacked that type of growth because we were billed as a bedroom community,” Ford said. “So that wasn’t truly the focus, and then when they did kind of focus on that growth, it was concentrated on industrial development within the minority communities of Missouri City.”
Taylor served as an executive for the Jasper Oil Company in East Texas and was a special education teacher at the middle school and high school level for Houston ISD.
Taylor said his top priority is to implement a policy of no property taxes for seniors once they reached the age of 65. He added he wants to bring back a grocery store to the Texas Parkway corridor.
Elackatt previously served six years on the city council, and prior to that was a member of the city’s Parks Board.
He said he wanted to improve the city’s aging infrastructure, particularly via sidewalk repairs. He also suggested the city needs to do more to take advantage of the strategic location of the Fort Bend Toll Road.
Ford was asked about the city’s emergency management plan, and her COVID-19 response drew attacks from her opponents.
Elackatt said he wouldn’t have waited on directions from the Harris County and Fort Bend County judges, adding that residents told him they felt Ford’s response was delayed.
“I would have been out there telling the residents of Missouri City what needs to take place,” Elackatt said. “When this pandemic broke, people were searching for information, they did not know what was going on. I would have used that EOS immediately and called for the command center to get the job done.”
Taylor said there has been “an absence of visibility” from the mayor’s office during Ford’s tenure.
“We had seniors dying inside of senior citizen homes and there was no mayor to be found,” Taylor said. “No coordinated response, no information provided. Fortunately we had a county judge (KP George) that got up and was speaking for Missouri City because we were in a void of a voice.”
Councilwoman Vashuandra Edwards, who serves in At-Large Position 1, will be opposite Reginald Pearson on the ballot. Edwards is a relative newcomer, having defeated longtime councilman Jerry Wyatt in 2018.
Edwards said working with City Manager Odis Jones on redevelopment and beautification projects and financial stability are two key elements of her platform.
She also said she wanted Jones to address the morale of employees inside the city’s various departments.
“Each department has their own issues, and with his direction, (Jones) can address those issues and make sure that the staff are comfortable,” Edwards said. “If staff aren’t feeling comfortable, they won’t be able to perform their job to the best of their ability.”
Pearson was a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. He emphasized sitting down with the mayor and city manager to establish a rapport and a shared vision for the city as one of his goals if elected to city council.
“What I’ve noticed over the past two years is typically the votes are 4-3, so there’s some divisiveness there,” Pearson said. “So I would address that first.”
Councilman and Mayor Pro Tempore Chris Preston is seeking his fourth term in At-Large Position 2. Running to unseat him are Lynn Clouser, who has worked in sales and marketing for pharmaceuticals, and James Mable, who works with Houston Community College’s Career Services Department.
Preston said he would strive to ensure small businesses and the community at large respond effectively to COVID-19 and adopt an economic development policy over the next 12 months “that is inclusive to all residents and business owners.”
He also cited a survey of residents and said it highlighted areas for improvement as well as positive feedback from residents as a part of his goal to improve constituent services.
Mable said he would “double down” on addressing the city’s COVID-19 response and making sure it was abiding by the state, county and city policies.
He also called for more transparency from within the city’s economic development team.
“I’ve heard time and time again about economic plans, and ideas for Texas Parkway and Cartwright Road,” Mable said. “And it seems like nothing is coming to fruition.”
Clouser said infrastructure enhancements will be her top priority.
“Our infrastructure is failing,” Clouser said. “As I’m out walking and talking to residents, I’m actually tripping over sidewalks. That’s not good.”