Both Missouri City and Stafford find themselves at a crossroads, with challengers vying for political control in upcoming city council elections that could represent a shift in mindset for both cities, with up-and-comers looking to unseat figures who have been entrenched in their respective positions.
Lynn Clouser, a community advocate and the Development Director for Hope for Three, a nonprofit advocating for people on the Autism spectrum, is a contender for At-Large Position 2 on the city council for Missouri City. Also running for the seat is incumbent Chris Preston, first elected in 2014, and challenger James Mable.
Clouser formerly supported Preston but said it is time for a fresh face in his position. The election is Nov. 3.
“We need true representation,” Clouser said. “And I’m running for City Council At-Large Position 2 to help re-route the direction that our city is going and try to really shape the future of our community for future generations. We’ve given him a chance, we’ve given him an opportunity, and now it’s a matter of, ‘We need somebody who is going to do the job that they signed up to do.’ ”
She accused Preston’s office of not being responsive to resident complaints and concerns.
“I feel that, as a city council member, it is one’s job to be accessible and visible for (sic) the residents, and that’s something that many of the residents are not experiencing with (Preston) right now,” Clouser said. “(There’s) a lack of returning phone calls and being accessible. That’s a primary duty of the job, and that’s one thing that I’ll be doing.”
Clouser also said “transparency and honesty” has been missing from the office. She said if elected, she would host town hall meetings, whether virtual or in-person depending on what is allowable in accordance with regulations in place during the coronavirus pandemic, to give residents an outlet to voice their concerns.
Preston, who responded to questions with an emailed statement through a spokesperson, said he has “championed responsiveness and transparency.”
“It’s important for me to respond to residents and address concerns in a timely manner,” Preston said. “For example, I successfully advocated and implemented a citizen’s survey, which provides residents the opportunity to share feedback related to city services. We in turn use the responses to serve our community better.”
Preston also cited the hiring of a homeowner’s association liaison to participate in HOA meetings and report to the city council.
“The HOA Liaison works lockstep with the HOAs and City Council to make sure we have real-time visibility of current issues,” Preston said. “For example, a senior citizen had a recurring issue with their dog escaping the backyard due to dilapidated fencing. A caring neighbor reached out to our HOA Liaison to ask for assistance. Under my ‘Chris Cares’ initiative, I was able to secure the supplies needed to repair the neighbor’s fence. This is one example of many that highlights my immediate responsiveness to our community’s needs.”
A long-standing issue for local officials and candidates for public office in Missouri City has been the fate of the Texas Parkway corridor.
“We need an innovative project that revitalizes the east side of Missouri City,” Preston said. “I want to bring jobs to our community and make our city more ‘business-friendly.’ I have worked with several business owners that have provided constructive feedback on ways to foster a more streamlined process to help facilitate growth and development.”
Clouser said she plans to cultivate relationships with landlords and ensure that properties are well-maintained and more aesthetically pleasing.
“It is coming along,” Clouser said. “Every time there’s an election, that is a sore spot. Obviously, for people to keep bringing it up, it’s not something that is happening fast enough. I think when you have the right people in local government that can work with people who can make things happen, I think then that’s when the magic comes.”
Mable, director of career and job placement in the Houston Community College system, said his experience in preparing people to advance in the workforce enables him to better connect with residents.
He also added that there has been a much greater emphasis on developing the area near Highway 6, and not enough around Texas Parkway.
“I just feel that a significant portion of the city has been left behind,” Mable said. “With everything going on with our economy and COVID-19, this is the perfect opportunity to get on board to work with our business leaders in the community to basically start revitalizing the Texas Parkway.”
All three candidates agreed that relationships with developers need to improve to attract more upscale businesses to the area.
Specifically, Mable alluded to a lack of fine-dining options or fitness centers as potential avenues for improvement at the intersection of Cartwright Road and Texas Parkway.
“You have to leave Missouri City or go down Highway 6 to enjoy some of these basic amenities that I’m sure people living along Texas Parkway or Cartwright Road would love to go into the heart of their city and enjoy,” Mable said.
Stafford City Council
In Stafford, the power dynamics at play are complicated by the shadow of the late former Mayor Leonard Scarcella looming over a mayoral election that pits several city council members and other outsiders against each other, all vying to take up the mantle of one of the longest-tenured mayors in the U.S.
This will open up possibilities for a new generation of candidates like Adam Sanchez, who is running for Don Jones’ seat on the Stafford City Council.
Jones, a former school administrator, adjunct professor and program director at HCC, has served on the city council since 2016.
Sanchez, who entered into politics with a run against Scarcella for mayor in 2019, was later appointed by Scarcella to the city’s planning and zoning commission.
He began his career in public works, which he said makes him well-suited to understand the internal machinations of city government.
“I have worked in city government, pretty much for the past six years,” Sanchez said. “I’ve seen how city governments work from the inside out. I have a different perspective than anybody else on the council to be able to be like, ‘Look, I know what it’s like to be boots on the ground, I know what it’s like to work in Hurricane Harvey, I know what it’s like to put on events. I know what it’s like to see the inside of city government that not a lot of people get to see.’ ”