Arlington hasn’t waked to such a shift of power in 64 years as it did Sunday when Jeff Williams assumed the role of mayor-elect in North Texas’ third-largest city.
It was 1951 when Tom Vandergriff, at 25, knocked off incumbent B.C. Barnes to become Arlington’s “boy mayor.” That’s the year disk jockey Alan Freed coined the term rock ’n’ roll and color television programs were first beamed from the Empire State Building.
No one pulled off such an electoral feat in Arlington again until Saturday night when Williams —at 55, not yet born in 1951 — defeated Mayor Robert Cluck, 76, who was seeking a seventh two-year term.
Williams polled 15,499 votes, or 58.1 percent, and Cluck had 10,461, or 39.2 percent, and two other candidates divided the balance, according to final but unofficial election totals.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Four council members — Robert Rivera, Kathryn Wilemon, Lana Wolff and Michael Glaspie Sr. — won re-election Saturday night in a city where turnout was boosted by a proposal to ban red-light cameras.
That proposition was approved by 59.5 percent to 40.5 percent.
Williams had the support of a number of former Arlington mayors who insisted it was time for a change in leadership.
In an appearance Sunday morning on WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics with Jason Whitely and Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy, Williams disagreed with the notion that age had anything to do with his victory. He said it had more to do with residents sensing more opportunity for economic growth and wanting a new vision to pursue that.
“Age did not come into this at all. It came into the fact of a bigger vision, new energy and to the fact that we wanted to do more,” he said. “We look forward to building on the legacy here of Mayor Cluck.”
Williams, past chairman of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and president of the engineering firm Graham Associates, said, “We had citizens that saw the opportunities that are out there for Arlington — the opportunity here to improve our neighborhoods, to be bringing more jobs and business here.
“It is a wonderful time for North Texas. And we’re ready to do more than what we’ve been doing, and citizens are ready to step up and participate and to be asked.”
Also appearing on WFAA was Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who breezed to re-election to a second term Saturday over challenger Marcos Ronquillo. (Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price was re-elected without opposition.)
Rawlings likewise attributed his win to broader factors than himself. “It’s not abou t me. It’s really about the vision and the growth of the city,” he said.
Rawlings and Williams, as a mayor and mayor-elect, were united in expressing concern about legislative attempts in Austin to limit local control over issues ranging from gas drilling regulations to plastic bag bans and payday lending restrictions.
Rawlings said that reining in cities can rein in growth. “I’m very concerned about it. … Cities are the growth engine,” he said, adding: “When the state kind of tries to kind of do this ‘Mama, may I?’ legislation, it’s really problematic.”
Williams agreed, saying, “I think it’s real critical” for cities to maintain local control when possible.
On the continuing gun debate in the Legislature on open carry and concealed “campus carry” in buildings at state schools such as the University of Texas at Arlington, Williams said that while he’s an advocate of gun rights, he sees a need for limits.
“I’m very much for the Second Amendment, but yet still we need regulations,” he said. “You just can’t be carrying wherever it is.”
While Williams and Rawlings spoke highly of each other and their mutual desire for regional cooperation, one topic did come up that could ultimately divide them: the prospect that Dallas will seek to lure the Texas Rangers baseball team away from Arlington when the team’s lease on Globe Life Park expires in 2024.
Rawlings made it clear that it’s not a front-burner pursuit for him, but didn’t rule anything out.
“I think the Rangers are pretty happy [with] what they’re doing right now. Arlington’s done a very good job. … Nobody’s really called me, and so at this point I’m going to just sit back,” Rawlings said.
Williams said there’s no overstating the Rangers’ importance to Arlington.
“Its history and fabric has been centered around the Texas Rangers. … The Rangers are a part of us, and so we will be very proactive here in keeping the Rangers in Arlington where they belong,” the mayor-elect said.
John Gravois, 817-390-7734