Councilman Joel Burns got hugs and applause at Tuesday night’s council meeting, his last before heading off to pursue a degree in public administration at the Harvard Kennedy School in Massachusetts.
“I am proud to be from Fort Worth and when my year at Harvard is over, I look forward to come back here,” Burns said. “I look forward to finding a way to pay for my amazing student loans and hope someone here will hire me.”
Burns, the first openly gay elected official in Tarrant County, received the traditional rocking chair for his service to the city, and the city also arranged to light the Avenue of Lights on Lancaster Avenue with the rainbow colors of Gay Pride Month, which is June.
The Fort Worth City Council members and Mayor Betsy Price all commended Burns for his service, and he received a standing ovation from the audience in the full council chambers.
“We are not always on the same page, none of us are, you’re a little more left and I’m a little more right, but when it comes to Fort Worth, you’ve got Fort Worth’s best interest at heart,” Mayor Betsy Price said. “You have been incredible to work with.”
Burns made jokes about the potential for crying during his speech, with Councilman Dennis Shingleton passing a $20 bill down the council line in jest when Burns voice cracked at the end of the presentation. Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray started to cry as she thanked Burns for being a friend and embracing her when she first came to council.
A real estate agent who had served on the Fort Worth Planning and Zoning Commission, Burns has represented District 9 since January 2008. He won the seat after then-Councilwoman Wendy Davis resigned to run for the Texas Senate. Burns, 45, announced his resignation Feb. 12.
Candidates Ann Zadeh and Ed Lasater are in a runoff for the seat. The election is June 21.