The voter anger of November has turned to voter ennui.
Most local elected officials won easy re-election from the few residents who went to the polls, with a sunny day at Mayfest drawing more attention than a few little old local government seats.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price works up a harder sweat bicycling than on her way to about 70 percent of the vote. Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams won by about the same margin.
Incumbents were in coasting gear almost everywhere except southwest and west Fort Worth, where physician and former hospice care executive Brian Byrd made thousands of house calls and eventually added enough political insider support to upset eight-year Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman.
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Zimmerman, 74, had city leaders’ support, but Byrd, 46, campaigned by calling on memories of late Councilmen Bill Garrison and Chuck Silcox. Garrison was a quiet businessman who modeled his deep Christian faith through actions more than words, while Silcox was a tax watchdog and also a bulldog for neighborhood needs at City Hall.
More than once, I heard my old neighbors in that district say, “We want somebody like Chuck.” Some of them were voters who were always embarrassed by his stormy tirades or reactionary politics, but still voted for him because their potholes got fixed and their street lights got replaced.
Byrd dropped both names often while campaigning, promising to get things fixed for constituents and bring his background as an elder and former executive pastor at Christ Fellowship Church, related to the Waco-based Antioch church-planting movement.
In the crowd at a Clearfork-area restaurant awaiting Byrd’s arrival, his father-in-law, Ben McWilliams, a physician and Christ Chapel Bible Church senior ministry pastor, grinned and showed me a card distributed to prayer groups across the city.
It was a prayer for Byrd as a “committed Christ-follower” to “bring, as appropriate, God’s word to City Council.”
“He’s a committed Christian and people know that,” McWilliams said. “He’s a man of integrity. He’s not going down there to remake the council.”
Byrd campaigned as a political outsider at first, hiring San Antonio-area Tea Party consultant Luke Macias, the architect of state Sen. Konni Burton’s and state Rep. Tony Tinderholt’s campaigns. He also picked up the staunch support of a Fort Worth firefighters association.
But he quickly became a business-community insider when he picked up the support of Clearfork-area developer Crawford Edwards.
Zimmerman, meanwhile, showed his age in ads and on the campaign trail, describing a childhood best friend as “colored” and rarely mentioning his own leadership role in a Presbyterian church.
“When people call City Hall, they want a response,” said Michael Crain, a Tanglewood real estate agent: “They didn’t always get that from Zim.”
When Edwards signed on, “he put Brian’s signs all over Clearfork,” Crain said: “That made a difference.”
Price lives in the district and campaigned for Zimmerman.
“Brian is a good friend, and the people were just ready for a change,” she said at her event at a West Seventh Street restaurant.
“I’m not sure Brian understands where the city is on taxes, and that city taxes aren’t the biggest part of your tax bill. But the people send you who they want. They’re sending me back, and him, so they want us to work together.”
They’ll let Byrd know quickly what they want.