Another former mayor and two West U volunteers have filed as candidates for the West University Place City Council, in the May 9 city election.
Former West U Mayor Burt Ballanfant, who served as mayor from 2003 to 2007, is seeking a seat on the council. Ballanfant is one of several candidates for the city council who opposes the creation of a so-called “Super Block” of municipal facilities.
The city’s long-range Master Plan for Municipal Facilities, which includes possible real estate transactions with West U Baptist Church, is expected to be a major issue in the city election. The church is planning to build a new Youth Center, but is negotiating with the city over a possible land swap that would involve properties on Amherst and Milton.
The city’s long-range plan for new city buildings — on a so-called “Super Block” bordered by University, Auden, Amherst and College Sts. — includes a proposal to trade land that the church owns on Amherst for the city’s Public Works operations on Milton.
The other candidates are Philip J. Snyder, a current member of the city’s Zoning and Planning Commission, and Bruce Beneke, a member of the city’s Building and Standards Commission.
Snyder said he enjoyed working on the ZPC’s year-long effort to draft a new zoning ordinance for commercial properties in West U.
“I found that to be refreshingly different,” Snyder said. He took on the volunteer position after retiring last year after 38 years with Shell Oil Co.
Snyder holds a law degree from South Texas College of Law and a masters’ degree in Public Health, specializing in occupational and environmental health, from the University of Michigan. He was a pre-med student at Rutgers University, where he received his bachelor’s degree.
He has been a resident of West U since 1998. He and his wife are members of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.
Beneke recently retired — earlier than expected — from Apache Corp., an oil & gas company.
Beneke was one of the first “graduates” of the West U Citizens’ Academy last year.
“I simply want to give back to the community. And I have had several people encourage me to do this,” Beneke said. “I am very interested in West U and its future.”
Beneke is a member and deacon at West University Baptist Church. “I really hope the whole issue is resolved” before the new council takes office, Beneke said..
“I do see a need for updating our facilities,” Beneke said. “I am here to listen.”
Beneke and his wife, an attorney, have lived in West U for 18 years. As a Meyerland resident while his daughter was in school, Beneke said, his only other “political” experience was serving as the president of the PTAs for Elrod Elementary and Fondren Middle School.
Other candidates who have officially filed for election to the council are former West U Mayor Bob Kelly and Mardi Turner, a West U resident who served on the Parks and Recreation Board for six years. They also oppose the city’s long-range plan for municipal facilities.
West U Mayor Pro Tem Susan Sample, an attorney serving her second term on council, has filed to run for mayor of West U.
The last day for candidates to file in the city election is February 27, 2015.