Vote of confidence: Fort Worth voters return experienced mayor, council

Fort Worth government is on the right track.

That’s the clear message from voters in Saturday’s mayor and council races, in which incumbents prevailed in every council race and Mayor Betsy Price won a record fifth term.

Hard-fought campaigns that gave voice to continuing concerns over public transportation, distressed neighborhoods and racial inequality yielded to an overall sense that the city and its leaders are headed in the right direction.

In Tarrant County Democratic Party chair Deborah Peoples, Price overcame her most serious challenge since her first election in 2011.

Voters have chosen to stay the steady course that Price has set, which has included guiding enormous organic growth in both the residential and business sectors while aggressively recruiting new and expanded businesses. The latter is vital, local officials acknowledge, to relieve a growing reliance on residential property taxes, as opposed to business, to fund city services.

Price has also put a premium on, and her estimable brand behind, Read Fort Worth, the mission of which is to get 100 percent of the city’s third-graders reading on grade level by 2025. She also was instrumental in nudging the long-planned billion-dollar TEXRail commuter line to DFW Airport up and running earlier this year. And the bicycle and fitness enthusiast’s focus on the health of the city is fairly fabled.

“This city is better-educated, healthier and safer than it was eight years ago,” she said at her election watch party Saturday evening.

Even as the returns came in and the outcome was uncertain, council members Brian Byrd (District 3) and Dennis Shingleton (District 7) showered Price with praise.

“Nobody loves this city more than Betsy,” Byrd said. “Nobody works harder for it.”

Both agreed that, owing to Price’s considerable strength of leadership, if Fort Worth has a “weak mayor” form of government, Price didn’t get the memo.

“I have served and been led by many general officers,” Shingleton, who retired from the Army after 32 years, said during a Star-Telegram Facebook Live event Saturday night. “And I will tell you that Betsy Price is among the best of those leaders that I have ever worked for.”

It’s that leadership, Shingleton added, that “makes this council a unified group.”

“She’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with,” Byrd agreed. “I would follow her any day of the week.”

Shingleton lauded the mayor in particular for her ushering the city through a complicated, emotional financial fix for the troubled employee pension program — something other major cities in Texas have been unable to do without state intervention. He also noted her emphasis on educating a future Fort Worth workforce, and her contagious fixation on fitness.

For her part, Price is proud of tackling both the pension problem and the Race and Culture Task Force recommendations, saying a politician worried about votes might not have done so. “I’m not a politician,” she said. “I’m a public servant.”

Her opponent, Peoples, is to be congratulated for running a spirited campaign that not only made the election for mayor a legitimate race, but attracted the backing of several presidential candidates and sparked candid conversations about economic and racial equity.

Informed and no doubt improved by that robust challenge, Fort Worth has returned an experienced, emboldened slate of veteran leaders to keep the city on track.

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