Backed by two former Arlington mayors, longtime business and community leader Jeff Williams said Monday that he will run for mayor in May.
Williams, 55, is president of Graham Associates, a civil engineering firm whose portfolio includes Arlington landmarks such as AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Park at Arlington, the Parks Mall and the River Legacy Living Science Center.
He’s the first candidate to formally announce a challenge to Robert Cluck, mayor since 2003.
“Why am I moving forward so early? The reason for that is a lot of the neighborhood leaders and community leaders know me. But Arlington is a very large city and there are a lot of people who don’t know me,” said Williams, who is past chairman of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the 2014 AISD school bond election committee.
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“I want to have the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends and more importantly to hear from the people of our community and to help establish what is a priority for them.”
Williams said he was encouraged to run for public office by several community leaders, including former Mayors Richard Greene and Elzie Odom and local businessmen Dan Dipert and Victor Vandergriff, many of whom attended a campaign kickoff party Monday night in downtown Arlington.
Cluck said Monday that he will seek a seventh term. He said he’s not upset about Williams’ candidacy or about who is supporting him.
“Jeff is a friend of mine. We both plan to run to win,” Cluck said. “It may appear ugly at times, but it’s not.”
Williams has volunteered with many organizations in the past 30 years, including stints as president of the River Legacy Foundation, the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau board and the Arlington YMCA advisory board, and received the Vandergriff Community Leadership Award for his service.
“I’m not running against Robert Cluck. I am offering myself as a public servant to help plan for the next decade,” said Williams, who described Cluck as a great friend.
“My goal is to try to always work and ask myself, ‘What is best for Arlington?’ I feel very confident that this is what is best for Arlington.”
Partnering with school districts to improve education, enhancing mobility throughout the region, and taking a fresh look at city services and infrastructure needs are among Williams’ top priorities, which he said are key to attracting both families and companies that offer high-paying jobs to town.
“We want to make sure this is a place our children and grandchildren want to live. We’ve got to be taking care of education, transportation, quality housing and our public services,” Williams said. “It is going to take some heavy lifting so as these companies are looking they say ‘Wow, look at what they’ve done and look at what they are going to do’.”
Supporters at the event said they believe that Williams has the leadership ability to bring together the right people and enable the city to seize opportunities that will improve the lives of Arlington’s economically and culturally diverse population.
“He is selfless, has a keen understanding of business and he’s inclusive,” small-business owner Ray Gomez said. “Jeff respects the diversity of Arlington.”
Because he is now a candidate for public office, Williams said his civil engineering firm will not bid on city projects. Past projects for Graham Associates, which is based in Arlington, include work on the Richard Greene and Dr. Robert Cluck linear parks along Johnson Creek and the Interstate 30/Three Bridges Project.
“It will be a sacrifice to not be doing municipal projects in the city of Arlington. My partners and my employees are ready to make that sacrifice. A lot of them live here in Arlington,” Williams said. “This is going to be our investment in the community over the next few years.”
A date has not been set for the May election. Filing for the mayor’s seat as well as the Districts 3, 4, 5 and 8 council seats doesn’t officially begin until January, according to the city secretary’s office.
Cluck, 75, was first elected mayor in 2003. He is an obstetrician-gynecologist who now serves as vice president for medical affairs at Texas Health Resources Arlington Memorial Hospital. The mayor has nearly $104,000 in his campaign account, according to finance reports filed with the city in July.
A poll conducted by Anderson Williams Research last week found 78 percent of past municipal voters who say they will definitely vote in the May election plan to vote for Cluck, according to Cluck’s campaign consultant Craig Murphy. Also, 67.5 percent of past voters said they have a favorable opinion of Cluck, while 16.4 percent of those polled said they had a favorable view of Williams, according to the survey.
Cluck has faced multiple challengers in the past six elections and has never won less than 56.5 percent of the vote. In his last election in 2013, he won with 71.5 percent against two challengers.
Another well-known name could be on the ballot for mayor in May. District 3 Councilman Robert Rivera, 43, who has represented southeast Arlington since 2005, has expressed interest for years in running for the mayor’s. He has not announced his intentions for 2015 but many residents recently wrote messages on Facebook encouraging him to run for mayor, a move that would require him to step down from his council seat.
“I will be on the ballot. I will make an official announcement when appropriate,” Rivera said Monday.
Rivera, vice president of an investment bank, had about $39,500 in campaign contributions, according to his July finance report.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.