With Marty Leonard and Jim Lane off the ballot for the first time in 17 years, there was no doubt the face of Tarrant Regional Water District leadership would change after the May 6 election. 

Two Fort Worth real estate leaders, Paxton Motheral and Charles “C.B.” Team, are poised to fill their shoes, according to unofficial election results released Saturday night. 

Motheral, who maintained a massive fundraising advantage throughout the campaign, earned 32.2% of the vote, with 100% of precincts of reporting. Team, a commercial real estate broker, finished in a close second with 29.8% of the vote.

Pantego city manager Joe Ashton earned 19.8% of the vote, while locomotive engineer Chad Moore reported 18.2%. Voters could choose one, two or none of the candidates before submitting their ballot. 

Board members have a myriad of responsibilities, including continued oversight of general manager Dan Buhman’s performance and the water district’s involvement with the Panther Island / Central City flood control project. The five-member 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, 39, oversees the luxury mixed-use Clearfork development in southwest Fort Worth. During his Election Night party at the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame, Motheral said he was excited to start in the role and relieved to have the campaign in his rearview mirror. 

“Tonight’s been a little surreal, I didn’t know what this was going to be like,” he said. “This is my first endeavor into the political arena, but I’m excited to get started, roll up my sleeves, represent the voters, and get back to focusing on water supply.” 

Motheral co-hosted the party with Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker and District 7 City Council candidate Macy Hill, whose husband James Hill serves on the water district board. Three members of the water district board – Hill, Leonard and board president Leah King – were in attendance Saturday night. 

“This was a sleepy seat a few years ago, until people really realized the vitality of water quality in Texas centers around healthy water districts,” Parker said to supporters, before thanking Leonard for her service. 

The third time’s the charm for Team, who ran unsuccessfully in 2019 and 2021. Team, 40, has a head start in serving on the board of directors. In January, Team was appointed to finish Lane’s term after Lane died in November.

The campaign was exhausting but rewarding, Team said, and he’s excited to continue serving his community by focusing on the water district’s core missions of water supply, flood protection and recreation. 

“(Campaigning) reminds me that so many want to be heard, and I need to be accessible and continue listening so I can represent them well,” Team said.

He congratulated all candidates across every county race for jumping into the ring, adding: “There’s a place for you to build a great Fort Worth.”

Previous water district races have drawn more competitors and slimmer margins of victory. In 2021, seven candidates ran for three seats. That year, Team missed out on a board seat by 1,500 votes. 

With four candidates in the 2023 race, Motheral amassed a campaign war chest of more than $134,000 – more than all of his opponents combined. The next closest, Team, raised nearly $53,000 between January and April 26, according to campaign finance reports. 

Team and Motheral had several top donors in common, including the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors PAC, Our Water Our Future PAC, Kelly Hart PAC and Freese and Nichols PAC. Leonard, the outgoing board member, donated $2,000 each to Motheral and Team. 

Motheral’s donors also included his uncles, state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and former U.S. Rep. Pete Geren, as well as other prominent Fort Worth donors. He received $5,000 each from the Walsh Ranches Limited Partnership and the Accountable Government Fund, which is primarily funded by Sundance Square co-owner Ed Bass. 

Ashton, whose supporters included critics of the water district’s transparency policies and closed meetings, reported about $29,000 in monetary contributions. Moore, who was seeking political office for the first time, reported no contributions or expenditures. 

Both candidates have said they’re eager to see the water district move on from a leadership scandal in 2021 that led to public outcry and policy changes. They also have committed to recusing themselves from any votes that pose a conflict of interest with their careers in real estate. 

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, center, Macy Hill, left, and Paxton Motheral take a photo after their speeches on May 6 at an election watch party at the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame, 1720 Gendy St. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Motheral serves as board chair of Streams & Valleys, the nonprofit focused on the Trinity River, and plans to step away from his formal role soon because of the organization’s close partnership with the water district. Once he and Team are sworn into their positions at the next board meeting on May 16, Motheral expects to do a lot of listening and learning. 

“I’ve got a good idea of some of the issues, but personally it’s going to be me trying to dig in and understand what are the priorities and the more urgent things on the agenda that need to get tackled,” said Motheral, with his young son by his side.

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org.

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