Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns shocked many constituents and colleagues at City Hall when he announced in February that he was resigning to pursue a master’s degree in public administration at the Harvard Kennedy School.
A lot of folks wondered who would, or could, effectively take his place in representing District 9, perhaps the most diverse council district in the city, both culturally and economically.
The district has 90,000 residents, almost 60 percent of them Hispanic, and stretches from Interstate 20 and Interstate 35W on the south through the near south and west sides to downtown and near-northeast areas.
It has a cluster of urban neighborhoods including Berkeley Place, Mistletoe Heights, Oakhurst, Worth Heights, South Hills, Sunset Heights, Bluebonnet Hills and Park Hill.
Six candidates have filed for the seat in the special May 10 election, and five are highly credentialed, extremely motivated, very passionate and qualified to serve those communities that sometimes have competing interests.
One candidate automatically should be eliminated from consideration. Except for placing his name on the ballot, Juan Rangel III has shown no evidence of participating in the electoral process.
Rangel has not appeared at any public forum to which all the candidates have been invited, has not returned phone calls from the Star-Telegram Editorial Board or reporters, and as of late Friday had not filed his campaign contribution and expense report due April 10.
All of the other candidates are impressive contenders. Those candidates, who are in basic agreement on most major issues facing the district, are:
Margot Garza, 43, director of student support services for a Texas Christian University program that works with students who are the first in their families to attend college. She has worked with at-risk youths before and promises to be a “strong voice” for all the neighborhoods in the district.
Greg Hughes, 57, an engineer at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and a former member of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority board at the time the Trinity Railway Express came to Fort Worth.
Hughes has a record of working in the community, including forming a coalition of neighborhoods around TCU to increase communications between the university and its neighbors.
Ed Lasater, 44, is a lawyer, having worked eight years as a prosecutor in the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office. Now serving in his family’s real estate asset business, Lasater also has municipal law experience representing some smaller cities in the region.
Bernie Scheffler, 35, who owns a bicycle shop downtown, thinks the city needs new and younger leadership. A park board member appointed by Burns, Scheffler also says Fort Worth’s administrative structure could use a shakeup because it was designed for a city of 400,000 population, not one twice that size. He is disappointed that a city streetcar plan was abandoned.
Ann Zadeh, 47, is a certified planner with a master’s degree in city and regional planning. She served six years as the mayor’s appointee to the Fort Worth Zoning Commission and was chair of that body during her last year. She has been a planning consultant for several suburban cities.
In this field of stellar candidates, it is Zadeh who has the edge.
Her knowledge, interest and experience will serve the constituents of that district well, as she has specific plans for protecting and improving neighborhoods by reaching out to every association to know residents’ concerns and articulate their needs.
Early voting begins Monday. With the number of candidates in the race, no one is likely to get a majority May 10, in which case the top two vote-getters will face each other in a runoff June 21.
The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Ann Zadeh for Fort Worth City Council District 9.