FAIR OAKS RANCH — Running a grassroots campaign wasn’t enough to catapult annexation-foe Wes Pieper to the city’s highest office in May 5 balloting, which saw Mayor Gary Manitzas re-elected with 83 percent of the vote.
Pieper, who during the campaign often disseminated folksy emails with the subject line “Peeps Alert,” said a lawsuit challenging the town’s Nov. 29 acquisition of unincorporated territory — including his own property — will go ahead.
Also, constituents in May voted to pass a record Northside Independent School District bond issue, and Boerne Independent School District trustees returned without opposition.
Meanwhile, Manitzas said his second term will continue the city’s work to guard against encroaching development not in character with the Hill Country town.
“I was happy about the level of turnout and getting the highest percentage vote of any candidate in a contested race anywhere in the San Antonio metropolitan area,” said Manitzas, a former councilman.
Places 1, 2 and 6 incumbents MaryAnne Havard, Roy Elizondo and Greg Maxton ran uncontested. Along with Manitzas, they were sworn in May 17 at a City Council meeting.
Havard starts her third term, Elizondo his second and Maxton his first full stint after appointment to the council last June. He was selected to fill the post after voters approved a home-rule charter in May 2017.
Pieper said his loss was disappointing, but not surprising.
He described his campaign as honest, unusual and personal. Although he stressed in correspondences he’d be a candidate for all residents, Pieper also hoped to rescind the annexation order — which eventually would’ve made him jobless, as council members must live within the city.
“I didn’t expect my odds of winning were great, yet there was no chance if I didn’t run, so I ran,” Pieper said. “Bottom line, the residents deserve voting options. That is our American way.”
If given a do-over, he wouldn’t change anything, the ex-candidate added.
“The learning curve was swift, deep and still ongoing. I gave what I thought was my best shot – no regrets,” Pieper said.
The challenger decided to run after his home was annexed into Fair Oaks Ranch last November.
Pieper was one of seven property owners who filed a civil lawsuit against the town, arguing their lands were illegally and involuntarily usurped. He said three additional residents have since joined the suit.
Pieper noted he will continue to attend city meetings and speak up.
Manitzas said he was confident of re-election, but took nothing for granted. He walked blocks, visiting about 1,000 homes, while volunteers canvassed another 1,000 residents, he added.
“We always run a campaign like we think we could lose. Therefore, I put as much effort into this campaign as I did the last two,” said Manitzas, who first became mayor in 2016.
Looking ahead, he said the city would continue updating the comprehensive plan, land-use map, zoning and create a unified development code. The master drainage, water, wastewater, stormwater management and mobility (roads and traffic) planning will also be cultivated as they are multiyear projects.
“These are the most important focal points for our city and will get significant attention during the next term,” Manitzas said.
He added the burg is setting the course for the next 30 years and should remain focused on long-term improvements desired by the majority of inhabitants.
“Good governance is not a popularity contest,” Manitzas said. “It is about having the courage to do what is right and accept the criticism that will inevitably come from some residents who do not agree with your actions.”
Sixty-eight percent of voters approved an $848.91 million bond referendum to “address much-needed improvements at existing schools and to continue to keep pace with growth,” according to an official statement.
It’s the eighth consecutive bond issue the electorate has passed since 1995.
Superintendent Brian Woods said educators are grateful to everyone who informed themselves on the proposal and cast ballots.
“The passage of this bond speaks to the confidence that this community has in Northside ISD and means that we can continue to provide a quality learning environment for all students,” Woods said in a release.
NISD is the state’s fourth-largest district with a reported enrollment of 106,000 pupils.
The last NISD bond election was in 2014 when voters authorized $648.34 million. Around one-third of funds in the latest bond will go toward four new campuses, including the next high school, on the far West Side.
- Major renovations of libraries, cafeterias, fine-arts areas and science labs at older schools
- Upgrades to infrastructure systems such as roofing, heating and air conditioning
- Safety and security projects including 44 elementary security lobbies
- Marshall High School new public service magnet program
- Updates to students’ and teachers’ technology, including more mobile devices
- Additional school buses
Bond payments will plateau in 2025; some NISD homeowners could see a tax hike of $8.10 a month compared to current assessments.
“Northside’s history of projecting impact on taxpayers has been very conservative,” said school board President M’Lissa Chumbley in a release. “In the last four bond elections, the projected tax increases never materialized or were considerably less than projected. In fact, NISD’s tax rate today is about 12 cents lower than what was projected in school bond 2014.”
Places 1, 2 and 3 trustees faced no opponents.
Carlin Friar (Place 1) has been on the board since 2015 and served as vice president during the 2017-2018 academic year.
Joe Tidwell (Place 2) was elected in 2016 and held the role of board secretary during the past academic year.
Alan Rich (Place 3) has been with BISD since 2013, serving multiple terms as president.