The Tarrant Regional Water District’s board of directors will consider filling a vacant seat following the death of longtime board member Jim Lane in late November. 

Lane’s seat is up for election in May. Texas Water Code, which governs the water district, states that the board must fill vacancies for the remainder of term before the 60th day after the vacancy occurs.

The water district board will meet for the first time since Lane’s death Dec. 13. The board will discuss the vacancy in executive session, then meet in open session to potentially address filling the seat and consider electing a new board secretary.

Members of the Water District Accountability Project, who have long called for more transparency within the Tarrant Regional Water District, are asking the board to refrain from appointing anyone to the position.

If the board decides to move forward with an appointment, the group is advocating for the board to appoint a community leader who agrees not to run for the seat in 2023, said Lon Burnam, a former state representative and a leader of the advocacy group.

Burnam and his fellow activists are opposed to the board appointing anybody who may run for the seat in 2023 because it would allow that person to run as an incumbent — giving him or her an advantage over anyone else who might run for the seat. 

Incumbents tend to have an advantage over challengers in local elections, studies show. 

“We don’t think any of these people should be given a leg up to run as an incumbent,” Burnam said. “The public has a right to give input and, historically, they haven’t had that opportunity.” 

The group identified five candidates who have agreed not to run in 2023 if they are appointed to the board, according to a press release from the Water District Accountability Project. 

Those potential candidates include Blake Woodard, a partner at Woodard Insurance; Eva Bonilla, a business owner and member of several boards; Robert Griffin, a military retiree and small business owner; Tara Maldonado Wilson, a nurse and former Fort Worth City Council candidate; and Lee Henderson, a political strategist for Democratic campaigns who previously ran for Fort Worth City Council.

“The board plans to discuss tomorrow how they move forward,” Chad Lorrance, a spokesman for the water district, said in a statement. 

The board is open to considering appointing a member who commits not to run again in 2023, longtime board member Marty Leonard said. Leonard does not plan on running again in 2023.

Burnam hopes the board sticks with that approach.

“Three of the candidates on the board ran on a platform of transparency,” Burnam said. “If they fail to keep this an open process, then they fail to provide transparency.”

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Rachel BehrndtGovernment Accountability Reporter

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...