Keep ‘squeaky wheel’ on water district board


James Hill, Mary Kelleher, Jack L. Stevens
James Hill, Mary Kelleher, Jack L. Stevens Handout photos

One of the quietest elections on the May 6 ballot is also one of the most important.

Voters in Fort Worth and five suburban cities will select three directors — a majority — to the board of the Fort Worth-based Tarrant Regional Water District.

Water district directors decide where the city’s water comes from, and how, not only for their four-year terms but also in plans for the next half-century of growth.

Recent elections have been turbulent, primarily because a Dallas millionaire who owns an East Texas ranch did not want a pipeline to Lake Palestine dug across his land. This year, both the challengers and the two incumbents are running lower-key campaigns.

The retirement of President Victor W. Henderson after 32 years opens one seat on the board. Members earn $150 per meeting, up to $7,200 per year.

Board Vice President Jack L. Stevens, 73, of Azle, has served since 2004. If re-elected, he would become the senior director.

Stevens said completing the pipeline is his No. 1 goal if voters return him to the board, along with maintaining flood control. The Panther Island floodway “town lake” project downtown is on schedule from TRWD’s end and awaits state bridge construction, he said.

Director Mary Kelleher, 54, of east Fort Worth, is the “squeaky wheel” on the board. She was a constant contrarian and board critic when elected four years ago.

Her complaints have helped. Board meetings are livestreamed and on video now, and directors have a page for email online. She says she also helped gain more frequent water safety testing in recreational areas.

One squeaky wheel can be good for a public board.

Candidate James Hill, 38, of west Fort Worth, is a banker with almost 10 years of government experience on the Fort Worth zoning board of adjustment. He supports the water board’s current plan and brings both governance experience and a solid knowledge of banking and finance.

Candidate Leah King, 48, of west Fort Worth, is also worthy of consideration. She is new at water policy but has experience as a United Way executive and as a corporate public affairs officer with years of service on charity boards.

Voters may choose one, two or three candidates for three board seats.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends James Hill, Mary Kelleher and Jack L. Stevens for the Tarrant Regional Water District board.