Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price won’t run for sixth term
Betsy Price, the longest-serving mayor in Fort Worth history, will not seek another term after a decade in office.
Price announced that she would not run for an unprecedented sixth term at City Hall on Tuesday, ending speculation about whether her time as city guide would continue and creating the most competitive race for the mayor since taking office in 2011 Campaign submission starts in January. 13th
“You know, being mayor, along with my children and grandchildren, was one of the greatest joys of my life. It was amazing, ”Price said, slightly constipated as she announced that she would step aside.
Price, 71, didn’t immediately say what her future political aspirations might mean, but noted that she still has “the energy and passion of Energizer Bunny.” She said she would focus on spending time with her family in the short term. It also declined to vote in favor of the May elections.
Fort Worth has grown rapidly in her decade in office.
When she took over the helm in 2011, the city of just over 700,000 residents was still recovering from the great recession. She is leaving the mayor’s office after an economic boom that has raised the population to over 900,000. During her tenure, the city sustained its finances, including a difficult retirement plan, invested in neighborhoods and lowered the tax rate by 12 cents, she bragged. Most Fort Worth homeowners still paid more property taxes – the average home value rose 73% since 2011 to $ 209,000.
“Fort Worth is now a modern, innovative, internationally known city, and we did it while we were still trying to stay true to Fort Worth’s roots,” she said.
She served as a tax advisor in Tarrant County for 10 years before running in 2011 and met little opposition in subsequent elections. In 2019, she defeated Democratic Party leader Deborah Peoples by 14 points in an election that saw all nine council members re-elected. The turnout in Tarrant County was about 9%.
Councilor Jungus Jordan, who had been on the council the longest, watched Price’s speech from the back of the council chamber. Councilors Dennis Shingleton, Carlos Flores and Cary Moon were also present at the event.
“I hate to see Betsy go,” said Jordan. “She was a great face for our city, also nationally.”
There are a number of potential mayoral candidates.
Tarrant County’s Democratic Chairwoman Deborah Peoples, 68, was Price’s strongest opponent in 2019. She has been announcing for months that she will be making another bid, but secured her engagement in a message to the Star Telegram last week, stating that she would meet with her family and campaign team.
Following Price’s announcement on Tuesday, folks said she was running.
Rumors that 60-year-old attorney Dee Kelly Jr. would enter the race if Price didn’t run have been circulating since late last year. Kelly Tuesday said he wouldn’t make a formal announcement until later in the week.
“I feel very strong that Betsy deserved the day,” he said.
A replacement for Price can be found among the city council members.
“I’ll be there when she’s not running,” said councilor Brian Byrd, who represents southwestern District 3, in a message on Saturday. Byrd did not attend Price’s announcement, but called her an “outstanding” leader in a statement.
District 9 councilor Ann Zadeh, 54, wrote in a message last week that she was “seriously considering” the mayor’s race.
City administrator David Cooke and his staff run the day-to-day running of the city, but Price has taken an active role in Fort Worth advancement and policy making.
Supporting education and early childhood development was very important to her.
In 2016, Price launched Read Fort Worth, a partnership with Fort Worth school districts with a goal of getting all third graders to read in class by 2025. She also helped promote Best Place for Kids, a nonprofit that focuses on early childhood development and encourages companies to adopt practices that help working families.
She was unhappy with the city’s obesity rate and was one of those campaigning for the Blue Zone project. International efforts promote a healthy lifestyle. Fort Worth was named a Blue Zone city in 2018 after a five-year process, making it the largest city with the designation.
An avid cyclist, Price also founded FIT Fort Worth, a physical fitness program.
In response to the low turnout in Fort Worth, Price founded SteerFW in 2011, a non-partisan group of young professionals with the goal of increasing civic engagement. Voter turnout remained low – it was around 8% in 2017, compared to around 10% who voted Price in 2011 – but Price said the program had increased interest in civic affairs.
Price pointed to efforts to modernize urban transport and referred to the TEXRail passenger train line opened in 2018 from the city center to DFW airport. The city completed its first active transportation plan during her time and urged the city to fill a position focusing on mobility issues.
“The evidence of our progress was clear,” she said.
Price, a Republican, has a pleasant relationship with the Trump administration, including several meetings with the president. The Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, has visited Fort Worth several times and touted the city as a success story for public-private partnerships and conservative housing policies.
Still, Price faced major challenges along the way.
A viral video of Jacqueline Craig’s arrest in 2016 drew national attention to Fort Worth and sparked calls for police reform. She was arrested with her two daughters after calling the police to resolve an argument with a neighbor. Craig filed an excessive violence lawsuit.
In response, a Race and Culture Task Force was formed to make recommendations on criminal justice, economic development, transport, and government to improve justice in the city. Price supported the recommendations and advocated hiring a director for diversity and inclusion and establishing a police monitor office under the city manager.
Price’s last term was her toughest.
Shortly after the election, Cooke fired police chief Joel Fitzgerald after the chief was embroiled in a heated confrontation with the president of the state police union in Washington DC. Fitzgerald later filed a lawsuit over the dismissal.
October 12, 2019 Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron Dean shot dead 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson in her home. Dean resigned and is charged.
The murder sparked weeks of protests, including at city council meetings where residents called for systematic changes to the police. The most critical voices accused the council of racism.
Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, protesters in Fort Worth took to the streets to call for an end to police brutality. Protesters and police clashed on May 31 while marching across West Seventh Street Bridge. During the exchange, Police Chief Ed Kraus approved the use of tear gas in the crowd and later said he was concerned for the officers’ safety. At a briefing the next day, Price supported the boss’s decision and issued a curfew.
“Like many US cities, we have overcome the challenges of the pandemic and unrest in the wake of racial tension. It wasn’t easy and we didn’t always get it right, but we did our best and we did a pretty good job I will say, “said Price. “I believe Fort Worth will be a role model for other communities in how to respond and how to open our eyes and realize that our disadvantaged communities need to be served and heard.”
Last March, when the coronavirus hit north Texas, Price and Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley were less aggressive with the pandemic than colleagues in Dallas County, choosing education rather than strict mandates. Price’s office urged residents to put on face covers with a “You’re wearing a mask” campaign that has become ubiquitous on the city’s social media platforms.
The price tested positive for the virus in late October and recovered after experimental antibody treatment.
Price has long been a cheerleader for the city’s sports tourism business, trying to strike a balance between keeping safe from COVID-19 and increasing traffic for beleaguered businesses.
When public health officials urged residents to avoid gatherings and wear masks, Fort Worth hosted a number of sporting events. The Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Country Club brought the PGA tour into town without fans. In July, NASCAR fans were allowed to visit Texas Motor Speedway, and in December tens of thousands of rodeo fans attended events related to the National Finals Rodeo in Fort Worth for two weeks.
“Nobody handled the pandemic perfectly,” Price said. “Certainly not us, least of all Tarrant County or our neighboring countries, but I would say we did as well as anyone.”
Price has been trying to turn the pandemic into economic gain for the city with Fort Worth Now, a private sector task force designed to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 downturn and attract new businesses. Price said she believes the Fort Worth pandemic is an opportunity to attract businesses from denser urban areas.
“We believe Fort Worth is in a unique position to recruit, attract, and grow new businesses in this post-COVID landscape,” Price said in May as she introduced the task force. “We are ready to be leaders in mobility, innovation, pharmaceuticals, medical innovation and many, many other industries that are critical to the recovery of our economy.”
When asked if navigating the pandemic affects her decision not to seek another term in office, she joked that her family wanted her to quit after eight years in office and that last year’s challenge doesn’t fuel her decision.
She hugged her family after the announcement, but then turned back to the crowd of reporters and city officials.
“This is not a funeral,” she joked.
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Luke Ranker covers the interface between people and government, centered around Fort Worth and Tarrant Counties. He came to Texas from the Kansas plains where he wrote about a great deal including government, crime, and the Topeka courts. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or [email protected]
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