The Sealy City Council voted and confirmed four members for the Sealy Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors during a June 22 special meeting after candidates proposed how they would manage the city’s business growth and expansion tools.
Chosen to serve two-year terms on the board are councilmembers Sandra Vrablec and Larry Koy, along with current board members Sterling Schiller and Wyn McCready.
“The EDC’s mission is mandated by state law as to grow the local economy,” Mayor Janice Whitehead said during the meeting. “Therefore, the EDC board members must be likeminded.”
Two Sealy City Council members, Sandra Vrablec and Larry Koy, requested appointment to the board and fulfilled the EDC charter requirement that one board member be from the city council. Koy requested votes to again serve on the EDC board after serving previously for eight years and to halt out of control spending, he said.
“There’s a lot of money being spent in the EDC,” Koy said. “Some were good things; some were kind of going overboard.”
Koy criticized a $122,000 EDC funding project for an apartment complex on Highway 90, specifically the development’s “water, sewer and gas” and drainage system, he said. Koy said that efforts must be made to change EDC bylaws to prevent city employees from serving unelected position on the board — City Manager Lloyd Merrell is a currently a voting member.
Koy said the EDC has a responsibility to inform city council members about projects and spending but said its track record of informing local government is full of vagaries and lacks hard data. He said EDC members need to be “more forthcoming” with disclosing their spending of taxpayers’ funds.
Vrablec called for changes to the appointment of city council members and asked that those elected “take turns” and rotate out with one another, she said. Mentioning her experience as a city council woman for seven years, Vrablec said serving as an EDC member would give her better insight to city government.
Wyn McCready said efforts by the EDC need to drive development in Sealy and claimed outside businesses decided against building in Sealy due to inadequate housing for their employees.
“You know a lot of companies don’t want to come to Sealy because we don’t have enough housing,” McCready said. “H-E-B has made it abundantly clear to us they’re not coming here until they have more housing.”
Increasing development and property and sales tax revenues will drive the happiness of Sealy residents, he said. McCready listed his commitment to attracting new growth as cause for re-appointment to the EDC board.
Sterling Schiller said his two-term experience on the EDC board is enough for members to vote for him. He said his resume working as an accountant for 30 years in Katy ISD and experience in local government qualifies him for approval.
“I have a working knowledge of revenue sources such as property taxes and sales taxes,” Schiller said. “I’ve also been a resident of the city of Sealy for over 50 years. I’ve built good relationships with many local community members.”
Sealy is in a unique position for growth, while maintaining its “small-town charm,” Schiller said. He stressed that new membership is important but using existing members’ experience and knowledge is more important to the corporation.
Former Austin County Judge Carolyn Bilski said her commitment to the community speaks for itself — mentioning her 20 years in office and extensive roots in Sealy.
“I truly love Sealy,” Bilski said. “I want to ensure a quality of life future. I can tell you right now, a conflict of interest you will not have from me.”
Bilski pointed to her seasoned legal knowledge and experience with funding government financial systems as reasons for gaining the votes of city council members. She said her term on the EDC board would be free of influence or persuasion and focused solely on the best interests of Sealy’s citizens.
After the candidates delivered their remarks, council members took a vote on their appointment. The approvals of Koy, Vrablec, McCready and Schiller went in order of their addresses. Bilski, who spoke last, was not selected.
The newly appointed EDC members will serve a two-year term ending in May 2022. Then, city council members will hold elections for those seeking approval to the board.
Sealy voters approved the EDC in 1997 after the state legislature created a “dedicated funding stream for economic development” and created the corporation to spend account funds on projects, rather than gathering cash in dedicated accounts, Whitehead said.
City sales tax funds the corporation and revenues go toward manufacturing and industrial development and quality of life improvements, according to the EDC website.