One of the things Jimmy Bennett enjoys as a City Council veteran is his part in the ongoing crusade against dilapidated apartment complexes.
Early in his eight-year tenure on the council, he hosted a town hall meeting that drew about 400 people eager to hear about and contribute to plans to demolish or renovate a growing population of substandard units.
“We’ve taken down over 4,000 of the worst apartments in the city since I’ve been on the council,” Bennett said. “Being a part of the tip of the spear on that has been very rewarding.”
It’s one of the reasons he initially filed for a fifth term in the May 7 city election — and maybe one of many reasons he withdrew his candidacy a couple of weeks later, in early February, before the filing deadline.
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He was just getting too busy.
I’m being pulled in too many directions. The fact I could run again and in all likelihood win is by no means the kind of justification I would use to make that decision.
City Councilman Jimmy Bennett
In addition to representing the at-large District 7, he is a certified public accountant with other business interests, and his family will soon add a second grandchild.
“I’m being pulled in too many directions,” said Bennett, 55. “I just decided after a couple of days that it wasn’t right to seek another term. The fact I could run again and in all likelihood win is by no means the kind of justification I would use to make that decision.”
Vying to fill the post he will vacate are Victoria Farrar-Myers, a longtime political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington; and Chris “Dobi” Dobson, who is making his sixth bid for the council. He most recently lost to Councilman Michael Glaspie in the District 8 race in 2015.
Bennett moved to Arlington in 1988 after graduating with a bachelor’s in accounting from the University of Texas at Austin and marrying his wife, Debra. They have two daughters and one granddaughter.
Bennett played “Mr. Mom” when he started is CPA business at home, which gave him the flexibility to get involved the community — volunteering with the PTA and serving on the boards of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the Boys & Girls Club, experiences that he said guided him to the City Council.
When his wife finished college and went to work, Bennett started his CPA business at their home. “So I became Mr. Mom,” he said. “That gave me the flexibility in my schedule to get involved in the community.”
He volunteered with PTA when the kids were young; he signed up as a member of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, eventually joining its executive board; and he served 10 years on the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Arlington. He’s also the master of ceremonies for the youth agency’s annual Cinderella Ball fundraiser.
That led to his interest in joining the City Council, which he accomplished in 2008. In that position, he has kept busy on the council’s economic development subcommittee and represented the city on the boards of the Texas Municipal League and the Tarrant Regional Water District.
Bennett has also been an advocate and promoter of the city’s small-business community, council colleague Sheri Capehart said. “I always considered Jimmy to be the real champion on the council for small- and minority business owners.”
During his eight years in office, Bennett said, he has “been very fortunate to be a part of a lot of successful things in the city.” Those include the obvious — the Arlington General Motors assembly plant’s current $1.4 billion expansion, the $200 million mixed-use Texas Live! entertainment complex deal with the Texas Rangers and Baltimore developer Cordish Cos., and the headquarters relocation of D.R. Horton, the nation’s largest home builder, to name just a few.
He also cites a few that most residents may not think about much, including a greater emphasis on government openness. The city is putting more and more of its business on its website.
“Transparency of financial disclosures in the city has vastly improved from where we came from,” Bennett said. And there are good things to see, he added. “The stabilization of the city’s financial footing and more recent strengthening has resulted in the highest bond ratings in the city’s history.”
Arlington recently earned the highest mark from two of the three major bond rating agencies and the second-highest score from the third agency, which rarely gives the top score to anybody. Higher marks earn the city lower interest rates when it sells bonds.
“That saves citizens money,” he said.
He wants to continue giving back to the community, just not as an elected official. “Many people don’t understand the time demands of serving on the council,” he said. “With my business interests as well as family demands, it just became a decision for me based on how I want the next several years to go, and I want to give my best to whatever I’m doing then.”