When Arlington City Council veteran Robert Rivera confirmed that he would not be seeking a seventh term in office, he included this in his announcement:
“Although public safety, roads, and adding jobs is my focus, ultimately attempting to help anyone who asked became my most important responsibility.”
The 12 years he has spent delivering on that approach to his role as a councilman probably explains why his Facebook post of his decision to conclude his time in office has gone viral.
In the more than 300 comments publicly expressing appreciation and saying how much he will be missed, the commenters conclude he put the residents ahead of anything else, that he has been a blessing to Arlington, that he has always been available, and that his dozen years of service have been amazing.
Others called him a champion for the people, that he is hard-working, that he is greatly respected and a remarkable man, a faithful servant, and that they consider themselves lucky to have had him representing the city.
There are lots and lots more of such expressions, but I think you get the picture — Robert has earned the kind of accolades for exemplary performance that most anyone who serves in elective office would cherish.
One of the comments summed up very simply how that result was achieved, “You have shown by your words and deeds that you care about Arlington and its residents.”
It became my own experience while serving as mayor to first encounter Rivera as an 18-year-old who had decided he should be a city councilman in order to ensure that the Texas Rangers remain forever in Arlington.
His idea was for the city to purchase the team as the best way to achieve that objective.
Beyond his naiveté at the idea that seemed perfectly reasonable to him, there was the sincere and serious demeanor that revealed a love for his city and its future that should be encouraged.
Though he would not yet win that council seat he sought, his interest in public service netted him an appointment first to the city’s Library Advisory Board and later to the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau board where he would emerge as its chairman.
In that role he co-founded Touchdown Arlington, the organization that would lead the effort to bring the Dallas Cowboys to Arlington.
He was entirely ready for that leadership position as a result of his experience in working tirelessly for voter approval to build The Ballpark in Arlington, now called Globe Life Park.
As it turned out, that effort did keep the Texas Rangers in town. So his original motivation as the youngest person to ever seek to be a council member had come full circle, and he played an active part in its success.
And he did so as a caring, positive and enthusiastic resident who had not been elected to any office. But that was still to come. Maturity and a growing sense of civic pride would propel him further.
In 2005 and after gaining knowledge of the energy, needs and spirit of the community through numerous charitable and service organizations he served and led, he won his first City Council election, then repeated the feat five consecutive times.
Now we will see what comes next for Robert Rivera.
Many believe, as I do, that his days of public service are not only not over, but will become manifest in other opportunities.
In the meantime, we can join with the social media sentiment that was expressed by another of his admirers, who correctly concluded that Arlington is a better place thanks to him.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.