Jim Lane’s legacy spans across Fort Worth, but perhaps none more than with his service on the Tarrant Regional Water District.

Lane, who served Fort Worth in public office for 28 years, died Sunday. He was 78. 

He served as secretary of the Tarrant Regional Water District Board until the end of his life. Lane was elected to the board in 2006 alongside fellow board member Marty Leonard.

“He brought a different way of accomplishing things,” Leonard said. “He always had good ideas. … He would be quiet until he felt like he had something that he’d want to say, of course, he was pretty outspoken.”

Leonard and Lane both planned on not running again in 2023, going out the same way they came into the position — together. 

“His legacy will always last,” Leonard said. “He was just that kind of person, and, in many ways, he will not be forgotten.”

Lane will be remembered for his kindness and “steadfast commitment to the mission” of the water district, water district board president Leah King said. 

“​​He was always very vocal, and the one that constantly reminded the board, what we’re here for, who we serve, and the impact of our work,” King said. 

Lane’s death creates an open seat on Tarrant Regional Water District’s board. The seat is up for election in May of 2023. The board has not discussed the next steps for either filling the vacant seat or waiting until the election to decide the next representative, King said. 

Texas Water Code, which governs the water district, states that the board will fill vacancies for the remainder of term before the 60th day after the vacancy occurs.  

If the water district appoints a member to the board seat, that person would be able to run as an incumbent. The board could also appoint a stand-in member who agrees not to run in 2023. 

“During his sixteen-year tenure on the board of directors, Jim made a real difference in the quality of life for millions of individuals and their families and communities,” Dan Buhman, the water district’s general manager, said. “We are grateful for his service and for how much he cared about TRWD staff and the communities we serve.”

Board member Mary Kelleher said Lane will be remembered as an advocate for Panther Island and LaGrave Field

“He always had Fort Worth at heart,” Kelleher said. “There were things that we didn’t agree on, on the board, but we always had a mutual respect to just agree to disagree, and I’m going to miss him,” Kelleher said. 

During his time on the water district board, Lane oversaw several consequential projects spearheaded by the district. The Panther Island project, which languished for decades waiting for federal funding, received $403 million earlier this year.  

In the meantime, the Tarrant Regional Water District led efforts on the environmental remediation and preparation of the land that will one day become Panther Island. The project primarily falls into Fort Worth’s Northside community, which Lane represented for 12 years as a City Council member from 1993 to 2005. 

“He could always be counted on to remind, whether he was on council or water district, about the impact of this particular project on Northside,” King said. 

Lane was also a vocal advocate for the refurbishment of LaGrave Field. 

He was passionate about the history of the field, which hosted Jackie Robinson for an exhibition game in 1948. Lane was eager to return the Fort Worth Cats minor league baseball team to the field.

“He was about bringing families down and preserving that history,” King said. 

The effort to revive the field was unsuccessful, after a 10-year agreement with the Save LaGrave Foundation failed. 

“I hope that the board can make something come of that in his name,” Kelleher said. 

Lane also served on the board as the water district overhauled its board governance policies. The changes followed an investigation by the Fort Worth Report into allegations of misconduct

Lane served in other consequential roles within Fort Worth — including recently serving as the lawyer for Aaron Dean, a former Fort Worth police officer currently facing murder charges in the 2019 shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson.

The trial of the former officer has been delayed several times, in part because of Lane’s poor health. Jury selection began Nov. 28, just a day after Lane’s death was announced. 

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Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report in collaboration with KERA. She is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri where she majored in Journalism and Political...