Influential community figure Mike Bass, a former township board member and lover of the arts in The Woodlands, died Monday. He was 77.
Bass, who was the Position 2 member of The Woodlands Township Board of Directors for four years from 2012 through 2016, was remembered on Monday as news of his passing spread through the community.
From his love of cooking and the arts to his unmatched knowledge of township politics and issues, numerous local residents and public figures lamented the loss of the dedicated community figure who’d been known in recent years as a vocal opponent to the ongoing incorporation studies.
Aside from local politics, Bass was also a key figure in the arts world in the township, volunteering as both the former treasurer and executive director of The Woodlands Arts Council and spear-heading many public art initiatives such as plans for a cultural arts center or museum, which has been studied by township leaders the past several years.
Pasionate community leader
Fellow township board member Ann Snyder she was saddened to hear of Bass’ death, noting he had deep convictions and perseverance on issues he was passionate about.
“I was truly saddened to hear of the passing of Mike Bass, and my heart goes out to his wife, Georgie, his children and grandchildren. Mike was one of the most intelligent individuals that I knew. His convictions and perseverance for what he believed was right was unwavering. Mike never stopped researching until he found the answer to any question posed. He loved our hometown, The Woodlands, and gave his heart and soul to the preservation of its foundation,” Snyder said.
A LOOK BACK:
Sunday Conversation: The Woodlands Arts Council Executive Director Mike Bass
Snyder said her encounters with Bass included not only township politics board duties, but also involved The Woodlands Arts Council — something both of them shared a driving passion for.
“I had the opportunity to serve with Mike not only on The Woodlands Township Board of Directors when he served as vice chairman but also on The Woodlands Arts Council Board of Directors. His involvement for many years on the Arts Board was because of his belief in the intrinsic value of the arts and its importance to not only The Woodlands but to society itself,” Snyder added.
Another board member, Director John Anthony Brown, recalled fond memories of Bass. Brown was first elected in 2015 when Bass was in the last year of what would be his final term in office.
“I’m saddened to hear the news of one of community leaders. I first met Mike Bass while serving as an area representative on the Alden Bridge Village Association sometime in 2012-2013. He was very active attending the Village Associations and would always help out with any issues,:” Brown recalled. “He also gave a lot of time to different organizations and devoted himself to service. The community will miss him. My prayers and support go out to his family.”
Board Chairman Gordy Bunch, who was first elected in 2012 along with Bass, said he will be sorely missed. Although the two had differing opinions on the idea of incorporating The Woodlands, Bunch said he had deep respect for Bass and his opinions.
“Mike and I were both first elected to The Woodlands Township Board of Directors in May 2012. Mike brought an intensity to our board and was always well prepared to debate his positions. Mike was instrumental in creating the transportation task force at a time the Township was without transportation staff,” Bunch said. “His efforts will live on with the South County Mobility Plan that established short and long term needs for our region. Mike stayed engaged after his time on our board and was never shy to share his opinion. I was saddened to hear of his passing this morning. Michelle and I send our prayers to Georgie and the entire Bass family.”
Insight and knowledge
Known in more recent years for his opposition to township incorporation efforts, Bass was also a former director from 2012 through 2016. He was first elected in May of 2012 before the township shifted their election cycle to November, handily defeating challenger Ted Stanley. In 2014, when the election was done in November, he earned a second term in office from voters with a victory over challenger Ron Mullins. Bass had also served on the Village of Sterling Ridge village association board for several years.
In 2016, Bass was challenged by current Director Brian Boniface as he tried for a third term in office. The 2016 township election was arguably the most contentious election in the history of The Woodlands, as four seats on the seven-member board were hotly contested and campaign donations flooded the races. When all was said and done, Boniface won his first term on the board, defeating bass by less than 2,000 votes.
Bruce Cunningham, who is currently on the Grogan’s Mill Village Association board and has been very active in politics and other issues in the township for years, recalled the first time he met Bass, saying he was impressed by his depth of insight and knowledge of township affairs.
“We sat next to each other at a meeting regarding setting up the Township. I don’t remember the details of why we talked or what we talked about, I do remember how impressed I was with his knowledge of the subject and his determination,” Cunningham recalled. “Mike started making contributions to the community very quickly he was on the Sterling ridge Village Association and then gained knowledge of the detailed working of the community by becoming a member of the other organizations what it it. He transitioned to becoming a Township Director in 2012 and was then defeated by Brian Boniface in 2016 in the Tea Party sweep of 2016. Mike was tarred with statements that he made about ‘The Woodlands Parkway extension,’ Those statements have come to be proved true as have most of the statements he has made.”
Local attorney Walter Cooke, who knew Bass through multiple community activities and endeavors, said Bass will be sorely missed. Cooke, who sought a seat on the township Board of Directors in 2019, losing to Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, shared many of the same views on township issues as bass, notably their opposition to incorporation efforts.
“Mike Bass was a legend in The Woodlands’ politics. Mike had the smarts and the perseverance to analyze complex issues down to the finest detail. He was an invaluable resource for me when I ran for the Township Board,” Cooke said. “He not only encouraged me, but he was always ready to provide advice and analysis of issues facing the Township. He will be greatly missed. His passing leaves a big hole in our hearts and in our political life.”
Love for arts, cooking
Deb Spiess, who is heavily involved in The Woodlands Arts Council, said Bass was a person who poured his heart into various passions aside from local politics, notably the arts world. Bass was both the treasurer for the arts council as well as its first executive director.
“We are all very saddened to learn of Mike’s passing. As a former TWAC board member, then treasurer, and the first executive director, Mike had a “heart for the arts” and made it a priority as a dedicated volunteer and board member,” Spiess said.
Walter Lisiewski, who is chairman of the township’s Development Standards Committee, said one thing he recalls about Bass was he deep care for the community, as well as a desire to be as informed about all aspects of township business as possible. Lisiewski also said Bass had a kind heart and was a giving person who would help anyone.
“I always thought (he) was brilliant. He may not always agree with your conclusion, but he respected it. He was one of those people who you could ‘agree to disagree’ with. He was a person who I looked to for counsel a lot,” Lisiewski said. “When I submitted my application to join the DSC, he called me up one Saturday at my house and asked me to meet to get to know me. He did his homework. He wanted to know who I was, what I did, what my career was and what I’d been doing in the community. He really loved this community…he was one of those who thought outside the box.”
Cunningham said Bass always asked people he met what sound they enjoyed most in life, a quirky element of his curiosity.
“I do remember (a) meeting (when) a consultant was trying to establish rapport between people who were going to be on the task force. One of the things he asked Nelda Blair and Joel Deretchin was what are your favorite sounds, Nelda’s was a champagne cork popping, Joel’s was a viola concerto,” Cunningham added. “His friends will miss him because of the robustness and thought he added to conversations. We read his missives carefully, we shared them widely since they were conclusive and authoritative. The community will miss him because there is no one else like him, someone who will take the time to collect the information, analyze it and distribute it when he disagrees with the purported facts.”
Amy Lecocq, a former federal prosecutor who is heavily involved with The Woodlands Arts Council, said she and Bass shared two passions — art and following the township’s incorporation efforts.
“Mike and I worked closely together at The Woodlands Arts Council, first as Members of the board and later he as treasurer and me as president. It may not surprise you that Mike was famously detail oriented and quite tight with a dollar,” Lecocq said. “However, what may surprise you was his passion for art. With Mike’s service on the Township Board and on the Arts Council, he has vigorously pursued a performing arts center in The Woodlands and I hope that his dream, shared by many, may one day be a reality.”
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