Following the surprise resignation of Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, one of the most diverse districts in the city unexpectedly needs a new representative, and a few residents have already stepped forward.
Burns, who had represented the area since 2008, made his announcement at Tuesday’s council meeting, saying he is headed back to school.
The Fort Worth City Council is expected to approve a May 10 election for the District 9 council seat, said Bill Begley, city spokesman, leaving residents wanting to run only 11 weeks until election day.
Carlos Flores, president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods, said he is excited about Burns’ acceptance into the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School in Massachusetts, but said it will take time before all potential candidates in the district can come forward.
“No one expected Councilman Burns to make his announcement. He has always served his community well and very passionately and to make this announcement was sort of a bombshell. Now, the dust is settling and people are analyzing their own political plans, if they have any,” said Flores.
Despite the sudden announcement, potential candidates are starting to come forward:
Hughes, an engineer at Lockheed Martin who has lived in Fort Worth for 26 years, is considering running.
Hughes, who got his master’s in business administration from Texas Christian University in 1991, served on the T board of directors for four years starting in 1999 and was involved with the collaboration with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) to bring the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) to Fort Worth.
“That is something people don’t understand that happens in government, but there is a lot of collaboration across political boundaries and organizations and that is something I very much enjoy — working with others to get things done,” Hughes said.
He is a former president of the University West Neighborhood Association, where he has lived for more than 20 years and said he could offer “a deep knowledge of the neighborhood” and what is important to the residents.
Though he said working full-time as a council member would be a challenge, he said, “I haven’t shied away from things because they are hard.”
Lasater, a graduate of Arlington Heights High School, Tulane University and Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, said he plans to make his candidacy official as soon as filing opens.
“It is pretty simple: I grew up in Fort Worth; I’ve lived in District 9 for 12 years. We have a great city, have a very good City Council, and I would love to serve and continue in that tradition,” Lasater said.
Lasater, who lives in Berkeley Place, worked for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office under Tim Curry for eight years, part of the time in the gang and homicide prosecution unit. He now works with his father in the family-owned Asset Deployment Inc.
He was involved in the most recent school board election, campaigning for “new blood” on the school board. Lasater said he is pro-business, pro-jobs and pro-education, but he wants more time to develop a platform before getting specific on issues.
“I think Joel Burns has served our district just wonderfully. I want to talk to him and really spend some time listening before I come out and say what needs to be changed,” Lasater said.
Zadeh, the mayoral appointee to the Fort Worth Zoning Commission, first under Mayor Mike Moncrief and then Mayor Betsy Price, said she intends to run.
She served on the zoning commission for six years, leaving the post in November when her term expired.
“I am passionate about transportation and sustainable development and making the city grow in a logical fashion that meets the needs of all the users of the city,” Zadeh said. Her experience in city planning makes her uniquely qualified to deal with Fort Worth’s growth, she said.
Zadeh graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz before getting her master’s degree in city and regional planning at the University of Texas at Arlington in 1992. She worked in city planning for five years before her oldest son was born in 1997.
She has lived in the Bluebonnet Hills neighborhood for more than 20 years. Zadeh said that coming out from behind-the-scenes service into public office would be outside her comfort zone, but she thinks “it would be an honor to serve District 9 in this way if the people felt I could.”
Diverse District 9
Burns, a real estate agent who had served on the Fort Worth Planning and Zoning Commission, was sworn into office at his home in January 2008, winning the post after then-Councilwoman Wendy Davis resigned to run for the Texas Senate.
The Harvard master’s program begins in July and runs through May 2015, but Burns said he will serve on the council until he is replaced. His term would have expired next June.
Burns said he expects to be most remembered for a 2010 speech during a City Council meeting when he encouraged youths being bullied and struggling with being gay to stay strong and he urged adults to pay attention and put a stop to bullying.
District 9 includes several key urban centers, including the medical district, TCU and downtown and stretches from Interstate 20 in the south to Northeast 28th street.
The area includes nearly 90,000 residents as of November 2013 and is 58 percent Hispanic.
The area is 65 percent white, 6 percent black, 2 percent Asian and 26 percent “other.” Many of the residents are between the ages of 20 and 54.
Over 22 percent of the population over the age of 25 have a 9th grade or below education and nearly 75 percent of the same age category do not have a college degree.
The median family income is $47,544 and the median house value is $111,850.
The first day candidates can file to run is the day the council calls the election, which should be Feb. 18, Begley said. Candidates can file until March 10 in the city secretary’s office at City Hall.
More information is online at http://fortworthtexas.gov/elections/.
The election for a new council member will be on the same ballot as the $292 million bond program and the renewal of the Crime Control and Prevent District (CCPD) sales tax, which expires this year.
The Crime Control and Prevention District Board, made up of the council members and Price, is expected to approve the May election for the CCPD tax renewal Feb. 20.