There’s no doubt that the Tarrant Regional Water District – and public perception of the agency – has undergone changes since the last time voters elected candidates to its board of directors in 2021. 

The water district has a new leader in general manager Dan Buhman, who took over the role two years ago amid a scandal involving his predecessor. The legal dispute prompted public outcry and policy change. And, after decades of delays, Panther Island – the $1.16 billion infrastructure project sponsored by TRWD – received more than $400 million in federal funds last year. 

Are you eligible to vote for TRWD’s board?

Only residents who live in TRWD’s taxing district are eligible to vote for the board. Use this interactive map to check if you live in the district, or look for the code “223 TARRANT REGIONAL WATER DISTRICT” on your tax statement.

Now, major changes to the board’s makeup are on the horizon following the May 6 election. For the first time since 2006, incumbents Marty Leonard and Jim Lane won’t be on the ballot. Leonard is stepping down after 17 years, and Lane died in late November

Four candidates are vying for one of two open seats on the board, including Charles “C.B.” Team, a 40-year-old commercial real estate broker who was appointed in January to finish Lane’s term. Pantego city manager and outgoing River Oaks Mayor Joe Ashton, 40, developer Paxton Motheral, 39, and locomotive engineer Chad Moore, 51, are also seeking an at-large board seat. The top two vote-getters will be elected to the board.

Board members have a myriad of responsibilities, including continued oversight of Buhman’s performance and the water district’s involvement with the Panther Island / Central City flood control project. The board also weighs in on TRWD’s infrastructure contracts and overall strategy for providing water, recreation and flood control to residents in the Fort Worth area. 

Motheral, Team lead pack on fundraising, but critics back Ashton

With 30 days until Election Day, Motheral’s campaign reported raising $83,560 – more than four times the amount raised by Team, who reported $20,625 in political contributions. Ashton, who decided to run after consulting with members of the watchdog group Water District Accountability Project, raised $7,365. Moore did not report any campaign contributions or expenditures as of April 6. 

Real estate leaders and other prominent Fort Worth donors have thrown their support behind Motheral, who oversees the Clearfork mixed-use development. Motheral’s supporters include his uncles – state Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) and former U.S. House Rep. Pete Geren – and Leonard, who agreed to be his campaign treasurer. She also donated $2,000 to Team, according to campaign finance records. 

Motheral will carry on his family’s tradition of being involved in water issues, Leonard said. Motheral serves as board president of Streams & Valleys, a nonprofit that works closely with the water district to build trails and recreational amenities along the Trinity River. 

“He’s a good young man – he’s smart, and I highly recommend him,” Leonard said of Motheral, who is married to Leonard’s cousin. “C.B., for different reasons, I recommend him as well. I really like his thinking, and I’ve been impressed in the short period of time he has been on the board in Jim Lane’s place.” 

Motheral is proud of his family’s commitment to serving the Fort Worth community in public, private and nonprofit settings. If elected, he would step down from his formal role as a Streams & Valleys board member and recuse himself from any votes that pose a conflict of interest, Motheral said. 

“I’m passionate about the community I live in, and I am fortunate to have the time to be able to commit to the community,” Motheral said. “I feel like I shouldn’t necessarily be penalized because I have other family members that have been active civically.” 

Meanwhile, critics of water district leadership have publicly supported Ashton, whose term as River Oaks mayor expires in May. 

Key dates for upcoming elections

April 24: Early voting begins 
May 2: Early voting ends 
May 6: Election Day    

Lon Burnam, a former state representative and leader of the Water District Accountability Project, said the group is endorsing Ashton – and only Ashton – because of his commitments to make meetings more accessible and work alongside Mary Kelleher, a current board member who has previously pushed for transparency measures. 

Burnam and his allies want to prevent what he sees as a “passing of the torch” from one generation of wealthy Fort Worth business and civic leaders to another. 

“It’s an uphill struggle because all the west side, white side monied interests are going with Team and Motheral,” Burnam said. “We believe in Joe because of his record of public service in River Oaks. He knows what it means to serve in the public interest, not the private interest.”

C.B. Team: Incumbent wants full term to effect change

After running for the board of directors in 2019 and 2021, this is C.B. Team’s third campaign — but the first where he is running as an incumbent. During his four months in office, Team has spent most of his time learning as much as possible about water district operations and spreading the word to community members about the agency’s role in water supply and flood control. 

Charles “C.B.” Team, who was appointed in January to finish Jim Lane’s term, is running for the Tarrant Regional Water District board of directors. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

“I want everybody to feel like they know what the district is and they know how to get in touch with their representative, because they might have an opinion on something and all opinions are important,” Team said. 

If voters give him a full four-year term, Team is confident he will be able to effect change and incentivize water conservation through education campaigns and simplifying permit processes. 

His real estate experience will also help TRWD manage the large number of properties it owns, including in downtown Fort Worth, Team said. Team hasn’t been involved in Panther Island transactions and doesn’t plan to do so in the future, he added. 

He hopes Burnam and other activists will give him a chance to prove he is committed to further transparency within TRWD. After the water district removed candidate applications and campaign finance reports from its website in January, Team led a push to make the documents available without requiring a formal public records request. 

“I didn’t think I would become a bad guy in so many people’s eyes so quickly,” Team said. “Nothing has changed with me. I still stand for and run for the same things that I have for the last seven years.”

Joe Ashton: Board must be more accessible, transparent

In his dual roles as River Oaks mayor and Pantego city manager, Joe Ashton is used to hearing public input. Ashton estimates he’s been to more than 500 public meetings over the past 20 years. 

Joe Ashton, current River Oaks mayor and Pantego city manager, speaks at a March 30, 2023 candidate forum co-sponsored by the Fort Worth Report. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

He imagines that experience will help him navigate tricky waters at TRWD, which Burnam and other watchdog group members have accused of keeping too many decisions behind closed doors. Ashton wants to open internal committee meetings to the public and move monthly board meetings from 9 a.m. to the evenings so more community members can attend. 

“It’s never good to hide anything, but it’s especially bad to hide something if you’re not actually hiding anything and you just come off like you’re hiding something,” Ashton said. “The more that can be open, the less questions there are.” 

Though he’s been in touch with Burnam’s group since last June, Ashton does not consider himself an activist and will be open to all input, he said. He doesn’t foresee any conflict with his day job in Pantego, which doesn’t purchase water from TRWD. 

Ashton is also interested in petitioning the state to change TRWD’s taxing district so that more people can vote in board elections. The taxing district, established in 1949 and centered in Fort Worth, funds flood control along the Trinity River.

“It’s taxation without representation,” Ashton said. “You have millions of people that are affected and pay TRWD, but because it’s technically part of their water rates, it’s not a tax and they don’t get to vote … Only the smaller group gets the voice.”

Paxton Motheral: TRWD must focus on priorities beyond Panther Island

Paxton Motheral, a developer and board president of Streams & Valleys, speaks at a March 30, 2023 candidate forum co-sponsored by the Fort Worth Report. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Paxton Motheral’s connection to the Trinity River goes back generations. His grandfather, Preston Geren, co-founded nonprofit Streams & Valleys alongside Phyllis Tilley in 1969. Motheral joined its board in 2012, and stepped into the role of board president four years ago. 

Coupled with his family’s ownership of the Edwards Ranch, which has transformed into the luxury Clearfork development, Motheral’s ties to water resources run deep, he said. 

“I’m doing this because I think water is an important issue for Fort Worth, and I want to see this community continue to thrive,” Motheral, a one-time City Council candidate, said. “How do we stay relevant? How do we continue to be prosperous as a city and grow? Water is at the forefront of those issues.” 

Motheral’s real estate background as a developer and experience shaping master plans through Streams & Valleys would be an asset to the board, he said. As vice president at Cassco Development Co., he spotted opportunities for TRWD and city staff to improve how they work together, especially when it comes to developments along the Trinity. 

Because of previous controversies over leadership and finances, Panther Island became a “little bit of a black eye on the district,” Motheral said. He’s eager for the water district to sell its real estate in the area and renew its focus on what the agency is designed to do.

“That’s what I’m going to be focused on: the water supply, flood control and recreation piece, knowing full well we’ve got to still navigate some of the Panther Island stuff,” Motheral said. “That’s the core mission of the organization. That’s what we need to be focused on.” 

Chad Moore: Candidate wants Panther Island to be destination for all incomes

Chad Moore speaks at a Fort Worth Report forum on March 30, 2023, at Texas A&M University School of Law in downtown Fort Worth. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Chad Moore, a former high school teacher and current locomotive engineer for BNSF Railway, knows he’s an underdog running against experienced competitors. But he hasn’t let that stop him from hitting the campaign trail and educating people about the water district’s impact on their lives. 

“I will ask the right questions. I will listen to people,” Moore said. “I just want to do the right thing by most people, because you can’t please everybody.” 

He was inspired to get more involved in local politics after watching his daughter work for Beto O’Rourke’s campaign for Texas governor last year. After reading a Fort Worth Weekly article about the water district, Moore decided to throw his hat into the ring. 

The water district could do more to engage residents about water supply and conservation through relatable social media campaigns, Moore said. He’s supportive of efforts to make board meetings more accessible online and hosting them at a time when full-time workers could attend in the evenings. 

If elected, he would push TRWD to think about how Panther Island could be made accessible to lower income and middle class residents. 

“Clearfork is beautiful, but it’s all big businesses that have come in and they’re super nice and bougie,” Moore said. “I would love to make sure that there are spots for local businesses and that they’re not going to be priced out – and if there’s going to be homes, that there are not just million-dollar homes, that there’s affordable homes for other people who can enjoy that area.”

Disclosure: Bill Meadows, Wes Turner and V. Neils Agather, who are listed as campaign contributors in the database, are board members of the Fort Worth Report. 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.

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at

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Haley SamselEnvironmental Reporter

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at Her coverage is made possible by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman...