Two years ago, more than a million dollars flowed into the most competitive Fort Worth mayoral race in a decade. 

Now, Mayor Mattie Parker, who is seeking another two years in office, is dominating her field of competitors in fundraising. Parker had raised $123,000 from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2022, according to campaign finance reports filed Jan. 18.

Parker announced her intentions to run for reelection in early February. She will face four opponents – Adrian Devine Smith, Alyson Kennedy, Jennifer Castillo and Kenneth Bowens Jr.

Municipal elections are coming up. Here are some key dates:

April 6: Last day to register to vote
April 24: Early voting begins 
May 2: Early voting ends 
May 6: Election Day    

The only other candidate who has filed campaign finance documents, Kenneth Bowens Jr., claimed zero dollars in contributions or expenditures. The candidates are required to file campaign finance reports again on April 6. 

Parker’s fundraising haul so far is just a fraction of the $653,957 she raised by April 19 in the last election cycle in 2021.  

Mishay Levine has been a Fort Worth resident and voter for five years and plans on voting in May. The city has made some progress on the issues that concern her most, homelessness and employment opportunities, she said. 

“I know that we’re doing a good job attracting economic development and other major employers to the community so that’s a plus,” Levine said. “But the unsheltered people at sundown, it’s a sad sight… We have empty buildings, we have unsheltered people, how can we marry these two and make it a win-win?” 

Anne Williams has been a Fort Worth resident for two years. She gets the impression that Parker is way ahead of her opponents in the May election. Despite this, she doesn’t believe Parker has done a good job leading the city over the past two years. 

“I think the taxes are too high and roads are terrible,” Williams said. “That seems contradictory for paying that many taxes. Why aren’t the roads better?”

The next mayor will preside over an expanded city council. The number of districts represented on the dias will grow from eight to 10. An expanded city council can create challenges in creating consensus on key decisions, Parker acknowledged, but said she was choosing to be excited about the expansion. 

Over the past two years, the city’s leaders have reached consensus over redistricting but have proven discordant on issues such as policing — which has resulted in some of the city’s most controversial votes, including the rejection of a citizen-led police oversight board

The fact that there is not a well-funded challenger for mayor means people are generally happy with the direction of the city, Parker said. 

Voters attending the Fort Worth Report’s mayoral forum asked the candidates to address issues ranging from short-term rentals to transit. The Report interviewed all of the candidates to learn more about their platforms and how they might approach the job. 

Read More

Mattie Parker touts two years of progress 

Fort Worth is imperfect but heading in the right direction, Parker, 39, said. 

Mattie Parker addresses the room at the Fort Worth Report’s mayoral candidate forum held on Wednesday, March 29 at Texas A&M University School of Law. (Cristian Argueta Soto | Fort Worth Report)

“At this point, I think people are generally happy about the direction of our city and I’m not done yet,” Parker said. 

She counts redistricting, which occurs once every decade, as a success from her tenure as mayor. 

Parker was a swing vote in one of the most contentious issues to go before the City Council, the creation of a police oversight board. Her rejection of the board remains a point of contention for some residents. 

Parker acknowledged the police need to work to build trust in certain ZIP codes across Fort Worth. Police Chief Neil Noakes has worked to expand efforts at community policing, she said. Parker plans to continue her strong support for the Fort Worth Police Department if she is elected to another term, she said.   

“We will be an example in this country of what it looks like to invest in police officers to make sure we not only have the equipment they need, but the number of officers needed,” Parker said. 

The Central City Flood Project, better known as the Panther Island project, will bring a billion dollar infrastructure development to the region over two decades. The project received $423 million from the federal government while Parker was serving as mayor. 

Despite the recent allocation of funds, the project has been long criticized for delays in securing funding and lack of progress on the flood control aspects of the project. Regional leaders have argued for decades the project is necessary to protect the city from flooding.

Now, the city is planning the fate of land surrounding the flood project and seeking input from the public, Parker said. The city will work to make the project more transparent, she said. 

Parker would like to continue work to improve the safety and cleanliness of the city, promote Fort Worth to outside audiences and partner with educational institutions. 

Adrian Smith emphasizes accessibility of government 

Adrian Devine Smith, a 43 year-old veteran, is a frequent commentator at Fort Worth city council meetings. Oftentimes he uses public comment to clarify agenda items or lend his perspective ahead of votes. Smith is running with service to the city of Fort Worth in mind, he said.

Adrian Smith at the Fort Worth Report’s mayoral candidate forum held on Wednesday, March 29 at Texas A&M University School of Law. (Cristian Argueta Soto | Fort Worth Report)

Smith often finds himself providing resources to people or just lending an ear to their issues, he said. The average resident does not have enough involvement in what goes on at City Hall, Smith said. 

“We can begin with transparency and encourage more participation in the process and the direction of the city,” Smith said. 

To encourage participation, council members should be more informed about what is on the agenda and be prepared to defend their vote, Smith said. There isn’t enough opposition on the dais either, he said, and often a council vote seems like a rubber stamp. 

When one person comes to speak at a council meeting, they may be representing a larger group of people, Smith said. As mayor, he would give more weight to commenters who speak at meetings. 

The city council should also simplify the process of accessing and reading agenda items, he said. People with disabilities are especially impacted when materials are difficult to access, he added. 

“I don’t want anybody to feel disenfranchised, or feel like you’re not a part of the process,” Smith said. 

Alyson Kennedy promotes Socialist Workers Party 

Alyson Kennedy, 72, is a perennial candidate who has run for president, senator and Dallas mayor. Now, she’s taking her campaign to Fort Worth, where she is promoting the platform of the Socialist Workers Party

“The big reason we do this is to be a voice for working people in the elections,” Kennedy said.

Municipal elections are nonpartisan, meaning candidates do not have a political affiliation listed on the ballot. 

Alyson Kennedy, a candidate for Fort Worth mayor. (Courtesy: Alyson Kennedy)

Disparities between the wealthy and working class were heightened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kennedy said. She believes elections and voting will not improve deteriorating conditions throughout the country and in Fort Worth, she said. 

“The answer is to build a working class movement in this country, based on the unions,” Kennedy said. 

Kennedy has worked in coal mines in multiple states. Today, she works as a cashier. 

Kennedy calls for a large public works program funded by the government to provide jobs with high wages and build necessary infrastructure such as hospitals, affordable housing and railroads. Amnesty for workers living in the U.S. illegally is also key to Kennedy’s platform. 

“I think any worker who lives and works in the United States should be treated like anybody else,” Kennedy said. 

The party does not intend to accomplish these goals through elections, Kennedy clarified, instead the changes should be led by unions. 

“Most workers we talk to have no confidence in the U.S. government or the politicians to do anything about our situation,” Kennedy said. 

Kenneth Bowens Jr. highlights infrastructure, youth programs

Kenneth Bowens Jr., 31, who works as an entrepreneur, resolved to run for mayor when he was a teenager. He attended his first city council meeting in 2005. 

Kenneth Bowens Jr. at the Fort Worth Report’s mayoral candidate forum held on Wednesday, March 29 at Texas A&M University School of Law. (Cristian Argueta Soto | Fort Worth Report)

“I see the disparities going on in my community and I think the mayor can have a huge impact,” Bowens said. 

Mayors also have the opportunity to advocate for their city on the state and federal level, Bowens said. 

Public safety, infrastructure and youth-focused programs would be among Bowen’s top priorities if he is elected. The city should come up with multiple solutions to address crime head on, he said. 

“We really, really have to bridge the gap between the community and police,” Bowens said. 

The city’s growth makes it imperative to make sure that roads, lights and sewer systems are up to date, Bowens said. 

Bowens believes the city should create an after-school youth program modeled after a program in Birmingham, Alabama. Bowen’s program would provide college and career readiness training, as well as provide youth a place to stay in the evenings and summer. 

“I believe that with that program put in place we can really help the youth on that level and prevent them from getting in trouble or getting put in juvenile,” Bowens said. 

Jennifer Castillo stresses cultural divides, taxes

Jennifer Castillo, 35, who owns a real estate business, describes herself as a Republican Latina. She is troubled by the financial challenges she has witnessed in the real estate industry and the city at-large following the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. 

Jennifer Castillo at the Fort Worth Report’s mayoral candidate forum held on Wednesday, March 29 at Texas A&M University School of Law. (Cristian Argueta Soto | Fort Worth Report)

Fort Worth needs new leadership to bridge an ideological divide among communities, Castillo said. 

“If that underlying issue is not fixed, that there’s no trust with the people and their government, their administration then nothing is ever going to change,” Castillo said. 

Fort Worth should also work to lower property taxes Castillo said. High property tax bills are hurting for first-time homeowners and small businesses, she said. The majority of Fort Worth’s residents’ tax bills go to school districts, Castillo acknowledged, where the elected school board sets the tax rate independent of city council. 

Read More

The city should do a better job of distributing information to residents, Castillo said. Many residents don’t understand the role of a city manager, or even when municipal elections take place, Castillo said. 

Those issues extend to city council meetings, Castillo said, where residents don’t feel like the council members listen to them. 

“People come up, they express their grievances and they’re not met with a reaction, they’re not met with any sort of solution to their problem,” Castillo said. 

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org 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.

Creative Commons License

Noncommercial entities may republish our articles for free by following our guidelines. For commercial licensing, please email hello@fortworthreport.org.

Avatar photo

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...