Longtime Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck was ousted Saturday by first-time candidate Jeff Williams in perhaps Tarrant County’s most hotly contested municipal race.
Williams, a prominent business leader, won 58 percent of the vote, with all 28 precincts reporting late Saturday. Cluck, who was seeking his seventh two-year term, had just over 39 percent, according to unofficial results.
The incumbent conceded defeat long before the counting was done.
“It’s been a great run,” an emotional Cluck said Saturday night at his election watch party, where supporters applauded him, embraced him and thanked him for 12 years of service. “I don’t regret anything.”
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Retired economist Jerry Pikulinski won 1.95 percent in his fifth bid for mayor, and banker Didmus Banda won 0.8 percent, according to incomplete results.
Williams attributed his success partly to his fundraising campaign and to support from his “prayer warriors.” He said he wanted an Arlington that would provide a better reason for its residents to stay.
“It’s about keeping our grandparents in Arlington; it’s about keeping our parents in Arlington, and it’s about keeping our children and 20-somethings to stay in Arlington,” he said.
The incumbents in Districts 3, 4, 5 and 8 were re-elected to their City Council seats.
Arlington residents have voted out a sitting mayor before. Tom Vandergriff, who went on to serve as mayor for 26 years, defeated incumbent B.C. Barnes in 1951, according to the Star-Telegram archives.
Williams, past chairman of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the 2014 school bond election committee, was recruited to run by several community leaders, including former Mayors Richard Greene and Elzie Odom and local businessmen Dan Dipert and Victor Vandergriff.
Cluck, 76, was first elected mayor in 2003. He is an obstetrician-gynecologist who now serves as vice president for medical affairs at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.
Though disappointed that he wasn’t re-elected, Cluck said, he will spend more time with family and at his hospital job.
“I would like to have won, but it wasn’t in the cards. Jeff did a great job,” said Cluck, adding that he would help Williams with the transition however he could. “I hope the council and the new mayor will come together and support each other as we did. It’s really important for Arlington for this group to be cohesive.”
Williams’ campaign focused on Arlington’s need to pursue economic development opportunities.
He criticized the lack of development around the $1.2 billion AT&T Stadium, questioning whether pawnshops, vacant buildings and used-car lots were what city leaders envisioned when they promised taxpayers in 2004 that investing in the sports venue would lure new businesses and high-paying jobs.
Williams said he would establish a volunteer task force and tap resources at the University of Texas at Arlington to identify and pursue prime business opportunities. The city’s economic development office is too small and isn’t being used to its full potential, he has said.
District 3 Councilman Robert Rivera, a banker, was re-elected for a sixth two-year term representing southeast Arlington. At press time, Rivera had about 58 percent of the vote, outpacing Marvin Sutton and Daniel Melendez. Sutton, an air traffic controller who has run for the council before, tallied about 36 percent. Melendez, a mechanical designer, had about 6 percent.
West Arlington residents favored District 4 Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon, who was re-elected to a seventh two-year term. At press time, Wilemon captured 81 percent of the vote. Nicholas Nervo, an economics professor, received 19 percent, according to unofficial voting results.
District 5 Councilwoman Lana Wolff was leading over two other candidates seeking to represent east-central Arlington. Wolff had 62.5 percent in her bid for a seventh term, at press time. Mark Liberto, who is retired, won almost 19 percent, as did Eleonor Hernandez, a university student.
District 8 Councilman Michael Glaspie, a minister, was re-elected to his second full two-year term as an at-large representative. Glaspie, first elected in 2012 to fill an unexpired term, won 54.15 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. Chris Dobson, a university student, won 24.8 percent; Richard Weber, a retired city employee and part-time mail carrier, won 17.24 percent; and Gregory Gerami, a landscaper, won 3.8 percent.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641