While Fort Worth’s City Council continues to take shape with one of its two newest districts headed to a runoff, Mayor Mattie Parker easily sailed to another term on Saturday, May 6, with 70% of the vote.
As Parker heads into her second term as mayor, she said her priorities will be continuing work from her previous term: creating a cleaner and safer city, addressing gun violence and improving infrastructure. Parker also said she intends to redouble her efforts to preserve open spaces and create more opportunities for economic development.
“Today Fort Worth continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in America because we’re focused on the right things,” she said. “It all stems from a high quality of life. Public safety is at the bedrock of this.”
The mayoral election is often one of the key races driving voters to the polls. Kim and Sophie Sallinger, who voted at the Como Community Center, said re-electing Parker was their top priority this year. For the next two years, Fort Worth will continue to be led by one of the youngest mayors of a large city in the country.
Parker’s victory stands in stark contrast to Election Night in May 2021, when tight margins sent her to a runoff with former Democratic Party chair Deborah Peoples. Then, there was no incumbent in the race, as former Mayor Betsy Price opted to step down from the seat. Parker ended up winning that contest with 53% of the vote.
This election cycle, challengers struggled to match Parker in fundraising and name recognition. Combined, her four challengers managed to raise just $7,310 compared to Parker’s $433,647.47.
Supporters at Parker’s Election Night party expressed excitement for her upcoming term.
Marion Knight has lived in Fort Worth for about 50 years and said she is excited for Parker to serve another term.
“I think Mattie’s excellent. She has a lot of energy and intelligence and is ready to take Fort Worth to the next level,” Knight said.
Parker spoke with the Report about what the next two years might hold for the city of Fort Worth. Parker said she sought a second term because she feels the work she started two years ago is not over.
“I think the city is moving in a positive direction,” Parker said. “For me, this is something that I felt called to do for a specific period of time for my city that I love very much.”
She also reflected on her first two years as mayor. She views her role as turning the temperature down on City Council – encouraging compromise and understanding among the elected leaders.
“We value building consensus. We like debates. We want people to push and pull things. But there is a group of people on the fringe, usually I’ll describe them as far left and far right, that do seem to love the fight,” Parker said. “Right now, there are so many things going our way, and it’s really important that we don’t squander the moment.”
Parker maintains monetary, political support from Fort Worth establishment
Many of Fort Worth’s most powerful political figures were supporting Parker on Election Night, including Price and outgoing District 7 council member Leonard Firestone. Major figures in Fort Worth’s business community also showed out, including Ed Bass and the United Way of Tarrant County’s Leah King, who also serves as board president of the Tarrant Regional Water District.
Political and business leaders’ support for Parker was evident throughout the campaign period. Parker’s campaign finance reports depicted strong support from Bass, who among other roles, owns and manages Sundance Square. Parker also received support from several of the most well-funded political action committees in the city, including the police and fire unions.
Price said they continue to vocally support Parker because she has the tools to move the city forward.
“It’s very exciting,” Price said. “I think she’s done a beautiful job the past two years and deserves to have two more to continue the work that she’s doing. The city needs continuity and Mattie’s the one to lead the new council now that it has 11 members on it. She’ll do a great job.”
Fort Worth’s conservative business and political leaders have continued to support Parker despite the mayor publicly criticizing and distancing herself from the Republican Party.
“I could not run in a Republican primary because I just couldn’t look myself in the mirror and do it,” Parker said during an event with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith in March 2022.
Parker has expressed discomfort with the growing partisanship surrounding politics, specifically at the local and national level.
“I think at the end of the day, as Americans, we crave authenticity, we crave for people to be honest and genuine about their positions,” Parker said to the Report in a March 2023 interview. “Look, I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there who don’t agree with everything I’ve done or said. But I hope they find me to be honest.”
Building consensus is a top priority for Parker, she said. She points to instances, such as during redistricting, where she chose not to be the deciding vote on contentious issues.
“I felt very strongly that it was not prudent for the city of Fort Worth for the mayor to be a swing vote in a contentious redistricting, I’m really proud of where we ended up,” Parker previously told the Report.
However Parker has taken the role of a swing vote in one contentious vote in the area of policing. She voted against establishing a community police advisory board in November 2022. The council defeated the proposal in a 5-4 vote.
Parker renewed her commitment to be a strong advocate for the Fort Worth police department on the campaign trail.
“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 previously told the Report.
The most immediate challenge Parker and the latest slate of council members will face is the city’s budgeting process and a series of public engagement meetings related to the city’s master plan. Parker will lead efforts to provide oversight to city management as they shape the city’s priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.
Parker said she will focus on getting new council members involved in the budget process early and help them understand what to expect.
“Everybody may have a different priority in their specific district, but I don’t want them to be surprised,” Parker said. “We’re gonna have some really important decisions to make in the city.”
Parker wants to continue investing in police, fire and parks through the budget process.
Parker prepares to lead expanded council
Parker will also have the immediate task of managing a newly expanded council and at least three new council members. Parker acknowledged consensus-building will likely become more challenging with a larger council.
“I’m also excited about their ability to hone in more specifically in a smaller geographic area with a smaller population,” Parker said. “Hopefully, they’ll have an even better understanding than our current council members have of all the different needs of their individual districts.”
District 11 is headed for a runoff election, which will take place June 10. The runoff will determine the first person to represent the newly added district.
“It will be different for me personally, as mayor, to make sure I’ve got a pulse on what they need for their districts,” Parker said.
The mayor was jovial at the Election Night party that she shared with newly elected District 7 City Council member Macy Hill and newly elected Tarrant Regional Water District board member Paxton Motheral.
“When I was elected mayor, I was 37 years old. I will be 40 in November, and I don’t look any older now, do I?” she joked. “It was time for our generation to step up and be willing to lead this city into the future, and we’re only able to do that because of the giants of the people who came before us and helped us serve in this community.”
She kept her remarks brief before passing the microphone over to her fellow campaigners, but in an interview with The Report ahead of the election she noted that heading into her next term, communication is key.
“It’s important that I continue to communicate what our vision is, where our priorities are and also being an excellent steward of tax dollars for those that live here and making sure they feel a good return on investment,” Parker said.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter.
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.
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