Fort Worth’s new District 11, with its upside down ‘U’ shape, is set apart from the 9 other council districts that make up Fort Worth’s city council map.
Voters approved expanding the Fort Worth City Council in 2016. That process came to fruition with the creation of Districts 10 and 11 through Fort Worth’s redistricting process in 2022.
In the lead up to Fort Worth’s upcoming May 6 election, the race in District 11 has emerged as one of the city’s most contentious. With no incumbent, the race is wide open and likely headed for a runoff election.
Runoff elections occur when a candidate fails to secure a majority, or more than 50%, of the vote. When that happens, the two highest vote getters head to a runoff election.
The district, which mostly includes neighborhoods in south Fort Worth, also extends west over Interstate 35W to include the majority-Hispanic neighborhoods of Rosemont and Worth Heights.
Also included in the district are neighborhoods such as Riverside, Meadowbrook, Echo Heights and Eastern Hills.
The neighborhoods vary by income, race and ethnicity, but all candidates agreed that each neighborhood is united by one thing — historical neglect by the city of Fort Worth. That neglect has led to issues such as aging infrastructure, economically depressed commercial corridors and adverse zoning decisions.
The Fort Worth Report spoke with the candidates for District 11 to learn more about their platform and approach to the office. Ricardo Avitia did not respond to requests for an interview; however, he participated in the Fort Worth Report’s candidate forum.
Christopher Johnson, 55, is a small business owner and neighborhood advocate. He is currently vice president of the Polytechnic neighborhood association.
Economic development has been neglected in District 11 for years, Johnson said. He pitches tax abatements and funding incentives to help spur development in neighborhoods such as Polytechnic Heights where economic growth has stalled.
“It takes the right leader, and I am that right leader. I have a vision and a plan,” Johnson said.
Johnson has helped families in his neighborhood get access to the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides discounted internet service to low-income households. Fort Worth should expand its assistance for households to access the internet.
The city should invest more in community centers, assistance for small businesses and economic development. He also supports an expanded police oversight committee.
“More people from the community need to be part of that oversight, because they are the eyes and the ears of the community,” Johnson said.
The city should also expand communities’ involvement with their neighborhood police officers, Johnson said, to build trust.
“Also, the mental health (resources), it’s a very, very small budget,” Johnson said. “We, as the 13th largest city, can do so much better.”
Johnson also believes that he can help to unite the district using open communication among community members. As a business owner, Johnson prioritizes hiring a diverse staff that would work to accomplish common goals, he said. That ideology extends to his community advocacy, too, he said.
“For the past 15 years, my experience has been to include the stakeholders and working with the other neighborhood associations,” Johnson said.
District 11 should also have a space for young people to get involved in a constructive activity, Johnson said. As council member, he would like to attract a skating rink to the district.
“Think about it. You bring in all different nationalities and races together at different ages. You get exercise using just about every part of your body. That’s one thing that’s important to me,” Johnson said.
Jeanette Martinez, 39, grew up in Fort Worth’s Southside, born to immigrant parents and raised to walk to the Fire Station Community Center where she learned to swim and play card games.
Now she works for Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks, who represents Precinct 1, primarily connecting constituents and the broader community with resources.
“It’s my own way of giving that to the community, just because I have this institutional knowledge of our resources and services,” Martinez said.
Martinez has also served on several civic-focused organizations, including Pathfinders, Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, and Las Familias de Rosemont.
While the neighborhoods of District 11 may have different priorities, Martinez said she would focus on key issues if elected to Fort Worth City Council: Economic development, public safety, zoning and lowering property taxes.
In her approach to the city’s budget, Martinez would like to see some of the city’s financial cushion allocated to programs that could use the funding, such as neighborhood services.
“Asking the hard questions like, ‘Hey, why is it this way?’” Martinez said.
Jeanette Martinez initially told the Fort Worth Report she would not run for the District 11 seat after filling out the initial paperwork to become a candidate. She said that was a decision based on time constraints while she works to pursue a bachelor’s degree in accounting, but reconsidered after Cristal Galvan announced she was dropping out of the race because of a conflict of interest.
“I just (want to) use my knowledge and my skills and struggles, my education, to give back to my community, to help it to leave it better than my family found it,” Martinez said.
Ricardo Avitia, a veteran, did not respond to multiple requests for an interview but did participate in the Fort Worth Report’s candidate forum on March 29.
At the forum, Avitia said he is an advocate for District 11’s working class. He is a first-generation American and the son of migrant parents.
“We need a different perspective looking at the discussion and decisions being made in our everyday lives,” Avitia said. He points to his experience as a construction manager as setting him apart from other candidates.
Avitia, who is a founder of Hemphill No Se Vende, an organization that focuses on gentrification, works to guard his neighborhood against outside investors.
“We do not appreciate the disrespect that comes to our community when they are trying to develop and invest,” Avitia said. “We have to understand that we, as property owners, are also investors and developers and we are very worthy and capable and willing to develop our neighborhood.”
At the forum, Avitia said the city should support the schools in District 11. He understands the struggle of being a student who doesn’t know how to read or write in English, he said.
As a council member, he can help parents and families traverse the education system because he understands the challenges they may face, he said.
Rick Herring, 58, grew up in Fort Worth’s Riverside neighborhood. He got involved in neighborhood advocacy 30 years ago after noticing that Fort Worth’s eastside needed a lot of help.
Over the years, he’s gotten to know the eastside well, Herring said. He served as moderator of the Riverside Alliance and currently serves as president of the Carter Riverside Neighborhood Association.
“I want to make sure that I have a good counsel rep for my own area,” Herring said. “I have been a consensus builder and I think that I can do that with the leadership in District 11.”
Herring’s No. 1 priority is empowering neighborhoods to improve quality of life. He wants to ensure District 11 gets prioritized in the city’s budget and bond programs. Many of the neighborhoods in District 11 suffer from aging streets and a lack of communication from city departments.
“Everybody knows, I’m a neighborhood guy, that’s my background,” Herring said. “My first priority is to make sure that marginalized or overlooked neighborhoods get their fair share of city services.”
Herring points to his experience on Fort Worth’s Zoning Commission and experience speaking to city council about zoning cases on behalf of neighborhoods as a training ground for making high-profile zoning decisions.
District 11 is a Hispanic opportunity district, and more than 60% of the district is Hispanic/Latino. Despite not speaking Spanish, he feels he can work to unite the district as council member, he said.
To accomplish his goals for District 11, Herring said he believed City Hall must strongly support neighborhood groups and be communicative with the leaders who represent their neighborhoods.
“What I would want to see is that District 11 be the district with the most active and vocal neighborhood groups,” Herring said.
The city should also prioritize managing urban sprawl, improving public safety employees, and managing property taxes.
Tara Maldonado Wilson
Tara Maldonado Wilson, 38, moved to Fort Worth from Waco in 2017. She moved to Fort Worth’s eastside in 2018 and started getting involved in community activism when she began protesting the police killing of Atatiana Jefferson.
Maldonado Wilson’s experience as an emergency room nurse makes her well-prepared to advocate for her constituents on city council, she said. The issues she encounters in the ER – homelessness, poverty, mental health and public safety – are all city council issues, she said.
“My professional experience is so unique because there’s not a perspective that anyone else has in this race and I don’t think any candidate in the city has,” Maldonado Wilson said.
The District 11 representative should advocate for infrastructure improvements, including marginalized communities and reaching out to provide residents with information that can improve their quality of life, such as funding available through city programs.
“None of this race is about me,” Maldonado Wilson said. “This is not my seat. This is about the communities and the neighbors of District 11 who really just need help.”
The city should invest time helping residents fill out permitting and assistance paperwork. The city should also make its meetings more accessible — most working people are not available when City Council typically meets, she said.
Effective policing is important to the overall health of the community, Maldonado Wilson said, and her life has been positively impacted by police while growing up in Waco. However, the police should be held accountable.
“It’s not about not having the training,” Maldonado Wilson said. “It’s about a culture and a mindset, and how you carry out your duties.”
She intends to be an outspoken member of the city council. She said that while city council races have typically rewarded candidates who go through the formal channels to secure leadership positions, such as city boards and commissions, her path has been different — which she sees as an advantage.
“People keep talking, and I keep doing,” Maldonado Wilson said. “That’s the difference.”
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com 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.