2021 Fort Worth mayors race: Meet the candidates

WFAA wanted to give voters an opportunity to get to know who’s running, so we created ‘Cowtown’s Candidates in :60’

FORT WORTH, Texas — May 1 is Election Day, and in Fort Worth, people will be choosing between 10 candidates to become the city’s next mayor. 

WFAA wanted to give voters an opportunity to get to know who’s running, so we created “Cowtown’s Candidates in :60.” Each of the candidates was offered the chance to answer the same three questions in a minute’s time.

Below, you can watch the answers of the nine candidates who participated, as well as read answers to three additional questions we asked. 

Watch, read, learn, research – and vote!

RELATED: May 2021 election guide: What North Texas voters need to know

Brian Byrd

TELL US YOUR FORT WORTH STORY:

I grew up in Fort Worth, and as a boy I did everything – from riding the Forest Park Train to taking the subway to the old Tandy Center to ice skate.

Stephanie and I have raised our kids here, and we built our businesses here. We just love the spirit of our city and I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience as a councilmember. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

FAVORITE FORT WORTH ACTIVITY?

We love to eat delicious food and listen to great music. Some of our favorite places are Enchilada’s Ole’, Dutch’s, and Cousins BBQ.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THE CITY FACES?

The city faces a number of challenges, including economic development, education, infrastructure, and property tax elevation. Meeting these head-on will require innovative problem solving, active listening, collaboration, and vision casting. The mayor must be out front on each with a vision for progress that everyone can be a part of.

More candidate information here.

Daniel “DC” Caldwell

TELL US YOUR FORT WORTH STORY:

I moved to Fort Worth from Dallas in July of 2015 and stayed with a friend of mine who’s like a brother from another mother.

I was hired by Crowley ISD to substitute teach, and by Educational Testing Services to grade SAT and STAAR exam essays. 

Later in 2015, my mother moved from Idaho to DFW and began working here as a hospice nurse, so we both made this our home.

I applied to law school and in July 2016, moved to Houston to attend the Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law. I took the bar exam in February 2019 while finishing my last semester, and I moved back to Fort Worth the following week.

While waiting for my passing score (I passed, of course), I resumed working for Crowley ISD, adding on work for Fort Worth ISD and charter schools through Swing Education before working from October 2019 to May 2020 at Amazon at Alliance Airport.

In December 2020, my wife and I moved from the Parks of Deer Creek subdivision to the United Riverside neighborhood, and then in September 2021 to the Mansions at Timberland.

From June to December 2020, I worked periodically for the Susan B. Anthony List, the US Census Bureau, FWISD, and the Tarrant County Elections Administration.

As schools resumed in-person classes after being closed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, I picked up substitute teaching assignments, and then I started driving for Uber and Lyft over the Christmas break.

Wanting to connect to better serve the community, I filed to run in February of 2021.

FAVORITE FORT WORTH ACTIVITY?

I would say my favorite activity has been working with the kids in the schools.

I have only worked at the schools on a part-time basis because I have bills, and it doesn’t pay as well as the other jobs I’ve had, but helping children learn to set and achieve goals has probably been the experience I enjoy most.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THE CITY FACES?

Disconnectedness is the biggest challenge facing Fort Worth.

Fort Worth still carries the scars of segregation and “red lining” and has chunks of the City that have been neglected and relatively isolated from the rest for decades.

National attention to police brutality has exacerbated race relations as well as burdened community policing and outreach with resentment and stigma.

Furthermore, as the City sprawls out, factors such as traffic congestion and lack of mobility, bridges, and thru streets make connecting with the heart of the City difficult for those on the outskirts of Fort Worth.

More candidate information here.

Mike Haynes

TELL US YOUR FORT WORTH STORY:

I was born and raised in Fort Worth and have been a huge influence in the community. I have also overcome the hurdles that Fort Worth has placed on its residents to be unsuccessful, but I made it out and now running for mayor so that the youth and other residents don’t face the same adversities.

FAVORITE FORT WORTH ACTIVITY? 

My favorite Fort Worth activity is running for mayor.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THE CITY FACES?

The biggest challenge the city faces is brining whites and Blacks together, and also the elderly and the youth together. Once we remove these invisible lines we will be the definition of the term: Fort Worth “a place of worth.”

More candidate information here.

Cedric Kanyinda

TELL US YOUR FORT WORTH STORY:

I am raising my kids in our beautiful city. And We chose Fort Worth for its culture, its people, and the hospitality we found in our great city

FAVORITE FORT WORTH ACTIVITY?

Taking my family to the parks and the stockyard.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THE CITY FACES?

Education and infrastructure.

More candidate information here.

Mattie Parker

TELL US YOUR FORT WORTH STORY:

I grew up in the booming metropolis of Hico, Texas and was really raised by my small town. I had a humble upbringing as the third generation on my family’s farm and learned early on the power of community. I went on to the University of Texas at Austin on scholarships and student loans and got the bug for politics my junior year of college when I worked as a press assistant for Speaker of the House, Tom Craddick. While in Austin, I met my loving husband David and ended up moving to Fort Worth for his work.

We quickly fell in love with this city and knew we wanted to make it our forever home. I’ve spent my entire 17 years in public service in a variety of capacities with a deep understanding of state, federal and local government. I am an attorney, a CEO and founder of an education nonprofit, former chief of staff to Mayor Betsy Price and the City Council, and most importantly a mother of three children.

As a scrappy small-town kid, I have worked incredibly hard to be where I am today. I am a quick thinker with a strong moral compass and my candidacy for mayor is about service to our residents and leading all of us into the future. My candidacy is not a steppingstone to seek higher office. It’s about focusing on Fort Worth and making sure future generations are proud of the community they live in. I want to make Fort Worth even stronger and better across all communities in our city.

FAVORITE FORT WORTH ACTIVITY? 

Believe it or not, my parents are truly hippies, and I was raised on great music and folk festivals. My husband David plays in a band during his free time, and music really plays a big role in our family. One of my favorite activities is the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s Concerts in the Garden. The atmosphere in the Botanic Gardens is amazing and the music is top notch!

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THE CITY FACES? 

The decisions we make as a community coming out of the pandemic will determine the trajectory of Fort Worth for generations. Playing armchair quarterback and criticizing the decisions of elected leaders is unproductive. Right now, we need to focus on a safe and smart recovery from COVID, taking care of our health and safety as well as our economy that have all been ravaged by the pandemic.

As mayor, I will ensure the city’s primary focus regarding the pandemic are:

1. Business Recovery – Business recovery must continue, including the successful work Fort Worth has done distributing PPE loans, but we cannot stop there. We need to support our small business and entrepreneurs in new and innovative ways, cutting any unnecessary regulatory red tape and connecting as many resources as possible across multiple sectors to help businesses recovery and our residents pivot into new businesses post-COVID.

2. Public Health – City leaders must coordinate with every partner who has worked together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic – Tarrant County, UNT Health Science Center, first responders, hospital systems – and do a full evaluation of the impact of this pandemic and understand what public health changes must be met to better meet the needs of our residents.

3. Learning Loss – Fort Worth students and families need every available resource and support to help students get back on track. Multiple city departments have already stepped up to support students, from neighborhood services, libraries, the police department and others, and as public gathering becomes possible again, fully activating our city facilities and employees to support students in after school and summer programming must remain a priority.

More candidate information here. 

Steve Penate

More candidate information here.

Deborah Peoples

TELL US YOUR FORT WORTH STORY:

After going to college at 16 and earning a BS and MBA from Texas Woman’s University, I went to work for the City of Fort Worth helping connect residents with city resources. I then worked my way up to Vice President at AT&T, and my 30 years of business experience will inform the targeted changes I make in the service of balancing our tax system. 

As the only candidate with an MBA, I will use my business experience to attract new job creators and design smart incentives to ensure all our neighborhoods benefit from our rapid growth. By “all,” I mean every single neighborhood.

I live in East Fort Worth. I live in a food desert. The city has admitted it intentionally neglected neighborhoods like East Fort Worth when targeting investments in our communities, and look what’s happened. I’ve been saying from the beginning that we need to be intentional with how we use city resources to incentivize job creators and community staples, like grocery stores, to provide for our underserved communities. As mayor, I will ensure all our neighborhoods benefit from our historic growth, instead of the status quo where only the wealthy and well-connected benefit.

Additionally, I have experience improving Fort Worth’s voter registration, civic engagement, and policy organizing as Chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party. Above all, I am a Fort Worthian first, and I will stop at nothing to bring folks of all backgrounds and ideologies to the table to forge a path forward that will unite us into One Fort Worth. I am running for mayor to use my experience as a business leader, mother, and progressive change-maker to heal longstanding divisions and unite us into One Fort Worth.

FAVORITE FORT WORTH ACTIVITY?

Activities during a pandemic really have to keep people safe, and this pandemic has proven that we’re only as healthy as our sickest neighborhood.

While we’re still wearing masks and getting the vaccine rolled out, one activity I have really enjoyed is how much public art Fort Worth has. You have probably driven by the living, moving Wind Roundabout sculpture by Ned Kahn, but there are also incredible artworks to walk up to and admire. Magnolia Avenue has a five- or six-stories-tall Eric Inkala mural which looks like it was transported from another world.

I also highly recommend visiting and learning more about local public artworks and murals such as Julian Johnson’s Atatiana Jefferson Mural, Juan Velzaquez’s Vanessa Guillén mural with a beautiful background painted by Mariell Guzman, and C. Joseph’s The Cowboy mural in West Seventh. The Trinity Trail also has over 30 new artworks on columns, walls, and structures, and separately the city’s Graffiti Abatement Program has been supplying local artists with paint and locations to add incredible art which helps decrease graffiti in those areas.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THE CITY FACES?

We will overcome the city’s biggest challenge: longstanding divisions within our city. The glaring issues our city faces—stark public health disparities, overlooked economic potential in under-resourced neighborhoods, growth outpacing infrastructure—all are rooted in the longstanding divisions within our city. From day one, this campaign has been uniting us into One Fort Worth.

We need to eliminate pharmacy deserts, target incentives that benefit all our communities, and lay an infrastructure foundation to maximize the benefits of our record growth.

This pandemic has proven that we’re only as healthy as our sickest neighborhood. Shamefully, Fort Worth is home to the zip code with the lowest life expectancy in all of Texas. Our historic growth can be a great asset, but we have to ensure all our communities benefit from that growth. Critically, our city cannot continue to be a place where residents feel unsafe and are rightly fearful of being targeted by senseless violence.

To be a healthier city, we need to eliminate pharmacy deserts and provide equitable access to healthcare for all our neighborhoods. We need smart tax abatements and business incentives that unlock the economic opportunity in our underserved communities, ensuring the City of Fort Worth tax dollars actually go towards creating jobs in the City of Fort Worth. Finally, we need well-trained and well-funded emergency services equipped to deal with the unique needs of all our neighborhoods with officers who resemble the folks from all our neighborhoods. 

I support providing additional funding for crime prevention programs and additional resources for community recruitment and community policing efforts.

More candidate information here.

Chris Rector

TELL US YOUR FORT WORTH STORY:

I moved to Fort Worth to retire here. I had visited Fort Worth many times during my military career and I fell in love with the city. I have traveled and lived all over the world, but there’s just something special about Fort Worth. As I began to write, my writing assistant/editor lived in Fort Worth, so that was an added bonus.

FAVORITE FORT WORTH ACTIVITY?

I love the different bars/restaurants in the cultural district and the awesome live music scene.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THE CITY FACES?

The city has to be absolutely transparent with the citizens and the city has to stop the waste and abuse of the citizens tax dollars.

More candidate information here. 

Ann Zadeh

TELL US YOUR FORT WORTH STORY:

Love brought me to Fort Worth, and it is my love for this city that has led me to run for mayor.  

In 1988 I met my (future) husband Jim when he came to visit his brother – and my classmate – after graduating from SMU law school on the pretext of talking about my interest in attending law school.  

After a long distance relationship of a year or so, we were engaged, and after I graduated from undergrad we married and I moved to Fort Worth since he had a job and I was planning to go to grad school.  

While I cannot claim native Fort Worthian status even after 30 years of living here, I did give birth to two Fort Wortians and we have lived in this city our entire married lives. 

FAVORITE FORT WORTH ACTIVITY?

Yoga in parks and other beautiful outdoor spaces, and walking in neighborhoods and on the Trinity Trail. Also, supporting local businesses, artists and musicians throughout the city. 

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THE CITY FACES?

While growth is a difficult and multifaceted challenge, with a proactive plan addressing appropriate land use, infrastructure and a visionary multi-modal transit system, we can harness the positives and mitigate the challenges. 

More candidate information here.

Editor’s note: WFAA extended a request for a candidate profile to Mylene George, but we did not receive one. Interviews here have been lightly edited for clarity.

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