The New Kids on the Sugar Land Block

Political Profile | By Christopher Hill –

Sugar Land Town Square – City Hall.
Photo by Joey Belleza

If Fort Bend County had a hill, the shining star on top would be Sugar Land. For decades the city has been an example for many of how to manage growth for the betterment of their community. The city spoke directly to the constituents about city enhancements, and they voted for amenities to make life in Sugar Land that much sweeter. Constellation Field and Smart Financial Center are examples of significant decisions for the betterment of the community, but there are also many more choices that lead to stellar growth and property tax management.

For Naushad Kermally and Stewart Jacobson, the newest members of Sugar Land City Council, the expectations are high, which makes the council’s next moves of paramount importance. Sugar Land’s days of stellar growth topped off with the annexation of New Territory and Greatwood. As the city moves from growth mode to more of a maintenance cycle, it is up to the council members to guide that transition.

Naushad Kermally.

Now that the elections are over, one can reflect on the lessons learned from a hard-fought campaign. Fortunes smiled on Stewart, and he did not receive a challenger, but for Kermally, it was a fight between three skilled candidates all with their constituencies. The initial election triggered a runoff extending the time and effort needed to win.

“I have been training for this position for years, going through city programs like Sugar Land 101 and others, but I was still surprised by the work involved in developing a campaign, and the workforce and money necessary to keep a campaign in front of mind,” shared Kermally. “Thankfully, it became a family effort, which grew into a community effort. I was blessed to have that level of support, but the amount of time and resources spent was the most surprising.”

Despite serving all 120,000 plus members of Sugar Land, each district has its concerns that need to be addressed. Jacobson knows that all too well as this May, his community suffered one of the most substantial rainfalls ever in our area. Even before being sworn in as a council member, he was receiving calls asking for his involvement. His primary focus is on keeping his constituents, and their property, dry.

“I represent one of the two areas hardest hit with the recent May storms,” said Jacobson.  “For me, its drainage – that remains the most essential item that we need to address on an ongoing basis. Also, it’s this transition from high growth to maintenance, and the way it is financed. As the taxable value decreases, it’s a different ballgame now, and the prioritization changes have to be well thought out.”

Kermally and Jacobson both view the hiring of a new city manager as paramount for the city’s ongoing success. Recently, longtime city manager Allen Bogard announced his retirement. Bogard will leave behind a city that has grown and excelled under his watch. He will leave his position in early January of 2020, and the large shoes that will need to be filled weigh on both councilmen’s minds.

“It is critical that we find someone, either internally or externally, that has experience managing a city that has grown and that doesn’t have growth to rely on anymore – someone who has the skills to maintain services at a manageable cost,” said Kermally.

Kermally also noted the need to improve mobility inside our community. “Mobility and the improvement of mobility is of critical importance as well. The city’s involvement over the years in mobility has helped Sugar Land maintain a strong flow of traffic, but there are choke points that need to be addressed. Plus, despite Sugar Land’s inability to grow substantially, the growth from the remainder of the county often flows through the city. Being prepared for that growth is critical.”

As both men look forward to the months and years ahead, they are excited about prospects for such a stellar area. For Jacobson, he looks forward to the development of new and exciting partnerships throughout the community. Sugar Land has become known for dramatic public-private partnerships that have reconstituted the city and provided for the growth and the entertainment value of the community. Kermally is excited about the diversity of the community. Like much of Sugar Land, being from one ethnic group is just one part of the larger narrative. Being able to learn from these communities within our community provides both a challenge and opportunity.

Stewart Jacobson.

“Sugar Land is a special place,” said Jacobson. “This is a place where people come who  expect better; they expect more. Our job is to continue the work done by others but also to have great thoughts to do great new things.”

Now out of campaign mode and moving to a more legislative approach, both defined what they believe a successful run on council constitutes.

“When I am done, I want people to think I served honorably and always voted for what’s best for the citizens of Sugar Land.  There’s nothing worth doing that’s not worth doing honorably,” said Jacobson.

For Kermally, it is about keeping his promise to the community – to be a person who is there for his constituents. “First and foremost, I want to be your ear. I have to listen to you to know what the issue is and then, I can speak for you. First, I want to listen and understand and then speak for all 120,000 citizens of Sugar Land.”

In a time of transition, it is critical for communities to have representation that has their eyes to the future but their feet grounded in reality. For Sugar Land, the future remains bright with two new leaders in council who have led throughout the city for many years.