Four of the six candidates running for the District 9 seat on the Fort Worth City Council talked transportation, education and other issues at an informal forum Thursday night.
More than 30 people attended the forum at Calvary Christian Academy sponsored by the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association.
“City Council members affect neighborhoods most directly, and so it is important to get up close and personal with the candidates and meet them,” said Libby Willis, president of the neighborhood association. She’s also the Democratic candidate for state Senate District 10.
The special election for the District 9 seat on the City Council is needed because Councilman Joel Burns announced his resignation to attend a midcareer master’s program at Harvard University.
The candidates drew for the order to speak, and each had four minutes to present their platform.
Margot Garza, 43, said her work as the director of student support services for the TRiO Programs at TCU gives her a unique perspective on how to keep graduating students in Fort Worth and grow the city.
“What I do at TCU is very relevant to our community. I work with students who are the first in their family to go college, and they are either financially disadvantaged or have a learning or a physical disability,” Garza said.
Garza, who lives in Ryan Place, said transportation and protection of historical neighborhoods will be top priorities if she is elected.
Ann Zadeh, 47, said her background and education in city planning and having served on the city’s zoning commission for several years makes her qualified for the council job.
“It made me very aware of the entire city of Fort Worth, not just District 9,” Zadeh said. “I just feel that this is the next step and my background and education that I have is something that is going to let me hit the ground running and not have much of a learning curve at all in order to step into this position and represent all of you.”
Zadeh has lived in the Bluebonnet Hills neighborhood for more than 20 years.
Greg Hughes, 57, an engineer at Lockheed Martin, said his experience in neighborhood associations, serving on the T board for four years and forming neighborhood alliances has helped him bring people together and solve problems.
“The job of an engineer is to be a problem solver, and I have brought those skills into the community in the past,” said Hughes, who mentioned his experience working with neighborhoods to get their voices heard about the construction of the Chisholm Trail Parkway.
“At the end of the day, when I have been concerned with issues, I have taken action, I have organized and I’ve gotten results,” Hughes said.
Edward Lasater, 44, a former prosecutor in the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, said he has also represented smaller municipalities in the Metroplex where he learned about code and city ordinances issues.
He said he saw the damage that bad planning and zoning can do during his time at the DA’s office, where he “saw what happens in tough spots.” Still, he said the most important issue facing the city is education.
“The No. 1 issue in our city, and there are a lot, but it all comes down to education. If you have great schools, great public schools, people will live here and stay here,” Lasater said. The City Council needs to work with the school board to address education, he said.
Willis said she invited the other two candidates, Juan Rangel, 28, and Bernie Scheffler, 35, but they did not attend.
Rangel has not responded to interview requests from the Star-Telegram. His election application council states he is a resident of the Fairmount neighborhood, an event planner and has lived in Fort Worth for 28 years.
Scheffler owns a bicycle shop, Trinity Bicycles, in downtown Fort Worth and has lived in the city for 14 years. Scheffler has said he would address the city’s rapid growth and would like to see the city and his district “remain as diverse as possible.”
With six candidates on the ballot, the race is likely to go into a runoff, said Jim Riddlesperger, TCU political science professor.
April 10 is the last day to register for the May 10 election. Early voting starts April 28 and ends May 6.
In case of a runoff, the election would be June 21, with early voting starting June 9.
Burns has said he will stay on the council until a replacement is elected.