West U City Council Race Draws Crowded Field of Candidates
The field is set for the West University Place City Council elections. It’s a crowded one.
Two former mayors and one former Mayor Pro-Tem are among the eight candidates battling for four seats that have filed as candidates in the May 9 municipal election. The filing deadline for candidates was Friday.
Former Mayors Burt Ballanfant and Bob Kelly, and former council-member and Mayor Pro-Tem Steven Segal have returned to the political stage. Mardi Turner is the only woman in city council race.
The other candidates are Bruce Beneke, Sonny Brandtner, Brennan Reilly and Philip J. Snyder.
Likely issues in the election include the possible relocation of West U’s Public Works Maintenance Facility outside the city limits, the proposed construction and location of a church youth center, and the possible acquisition of the Ownby tract for parkland, 38,553 square feet of real estate where Pittsburg terminates at Poor Farm Ditch. The two lots, 3615 Pittsburg and 3619 Pittsburg, are located along Poor Farm Ditch. The properties have been for sale for $3.6 million.
Here is some background on the eight City Council candidates for the May 9 West University Place municipal election:
Ballanfant served as mayor of West U 2003 to 2007. Prior to that he served as Mayor Pro-Tem from 1999-2001. He also is a current member of the board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. Ballanfant has been a vocal proponent of the acquisition of additional parkland, specifically the Ownby tract.
Here is his statement from 5/30/2014: Statement From Former Mayor Burt Ballanfant on Future Parkland Acquisition.
Beneke is a member of the city’s Building and Standards Commission. 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.
Brandtner ran for city council, unsuccessfully, in 2013. A former member of the Friends of West U Parks Board of Directors, Brandtner is a vice president at Robert Half International. He is a CPA.
Brandtner said council candidates “need to talk more about some of the important issues, like our school, and traffic density.”
“We need to get past the issue that people are talking about right now, which is the land swap between the city of West University Place and West University Baptist Church,” Brandtner said.
A more important issue could be a proposal by the Houston Independent School District to limit enrollment at West U Elementary School, Brandtner said.
“We may have to go head to head against HISD,” Brandtner said.
Kelly, who served as mayor from 2007 to 2011, is an attorney who has lived in West U for about 38 years.
He has been an outspoken opponent of the West University Baptist Church’s proposed construction of a new youth center and opposes the relocation of West U’s Public Works Maintenance Facility outside the city limits.
Prior to his service as mayor, Kelly served as Mayor Pro Tem.
He also was a member of the Charter Review Committee, the Parks and Recreation Board, and a past President of the West U Elementary School PTA (now PTO).
Reilly is an attorney who specializes in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
He is a vocal opponent of West University Baptist Church’s proposed construction of a new youth center and opposes the relocation of West U’s Public Works Maintenance Facility outside the city limits.
Reilly has spoken against the construction of the new youth facility at several city council meetings, as well as hearings before the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Segal, who is now retired, is a CPA and attorney who was a partner in Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, now Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP.
He served on the council from 2003 through 2007, and again from 2009 to 2011. He ran unsuccessfully in 2011 for mayor against current West U Mayor Bob Fry.
“I am running because I believe I can have a positive influence on the next council,” Segal said. Segal said he is returning to a political strategy he used in his previous council campaigns.“I will not accept contributions, and I will not spend more than $500,” Segal said. “I won’t have any yard signs.”
Philip J. Snyder
Snyder is a current member of the city’s Zoning and Planning Commission.
Snyder said he actually 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.
Snyder has been a resident of West U since 1998. He and his wife are members of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.
Turner is a West U resident who served on the Parks and Recreation Board for six years.
Prior to that, Turner served on the Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction Board and is a proponent for recycling our yard waste instead of dumping the green waste in the landfill. Turner is also a proponent of purchasing the Ownby tract for additional parkland.
Friday was the last day for candidates to file in the May 9 municipal election.