Gyna Bivens is poised to become the longest serving member on Fort Worth City Council.
Bivens, who has represented District 5 since 2013, won with 65% of the vote Saturday, May 6, securing another term in office she said would be her last. She currently serves as Mayor Pro Tem, the second highest position on city council behind mayor.
Watching the election results feels like Groundhog Day, Bivens said. She thanked supporters at an Election Night watch party Saturday, but did not give a victory speech.
“At the end of the day, I’ll be watching like everybody else to make sure those final numbers still, you know, give us what we perceive to be a victory,” Bivens said.
She defeated two challengers, William McKinley Jackson and Bob Willoughby.
Bivens, a nonprofit executive, represents a large portion of east Fort Worth. In 2022, a portion of her district, including the Echo Heights neighborhood and parts of Handley, were carved out of her district through the redistricting process.
Despite the changes to her district, Bivens said the core areas of focus in her district have remained more or less the same. Her goals for District 5 over the next two years are seeing through two projects — the Lakes of River Trails development and the Stop Six revitalization project.
“I don’t think there’s anybody on the horizon in any elected capacity, who has the passion I have to see (these projects) proceed and progress,” Bivens said.
Jackson is a pastor in Stop Six, and Willoughby is a perennial candidate and vocal critic of Bivens.
Jackson earned 16% of the vote, while Willoughby earned 18%. Jackson faced allegations that he was not eligible to run in District 5, according to previous Fort Worth Report coverage.
Jackson could not be reached for comment.
The Fort Worth Report was also unable to reach Willoughby.
Supporters of Bivens cited the care for her community as one reason why they support her.
Rafael McDonnell, a longtime supporter who was an appointee on the city’s zoning commission, attended Bivens watch party at the PepperMill Lounge on May 6. Bivens’ biggest strength is her ability to listen to neighbors, he said.
“If somebody wants to come in and build something, and the neighbors may have some issues with that, you know, she’s someone who is very responsive and listens to her constituents,” he said. “And I think that is her strength.”
Bivens said holding the title of longest-serving council member has allowed her to recognize the importance of bringing younger voices onto council. Her younger colleagues have taught her valuable skills, such as how to use the editing software Canva. On her end, she tries to provide historical context to decisions made on council.
“If your desired end result is a project or specific project that you have in mind, you have to keep people on task,” Bivens said. “Sometimes, the journey is so exciting to people that you can see people get bogged down. I think it’s important to keep people focused on the desired end result.”
District 5, with its wooded neighborhoods and proximity to Arlington, has a history of being overlooked by the city’s leadership, Bivens said.
Recently, residents complained that east Fort Worth was not included in tourism literature produced by Visit Fort Worth — the organization charged with promoting the city. The eastside has also been overlooked in distribution of resources, residents said.
“Arlington, Grand Prairie and Dallas have more attention than you do,” Judy Taylor, president of the Historic Handley Neighborhood Association, said in reference to the visitor brochures.
East Fort Worth’s population has increased over the past decade, Bivens said. Despite this, and the presence of several high-end housing developments in District 5, the area has been overlooked by developers, Bivens said.
Bivens is committed to continue letting her constituents guide her priorities during her final two years as council member.
“They create the momentum,” Bivens said. “That itself gives an elected official the direction, the focus, the goals to move forward… I don’t think anyone who follows me will have an option not to do what the people say.”
The city’s aging stormwater resources and runoff from developers have led to flooding on some east Fort Worth properties. In some areas of east Fort Worth, roads become impassable following heavy rains. Four people died in 2018 during flash floods in southeast Fort Worth.
Bivens will continue to advocate for the city to update its development policies to prevent worsening flooding conditions.
“For District 5, it’s all about, what does it take to make people of district five feel good and proud about living there,” Bivens said.
In her final years as a city council member, Bivens intends to try and impart wisdom on the next generation of city leaders.
“When you realize that you’ve got to have four or more friends, that should motivate you to be more congenial, more cooperative, looking for ways to collaborate,” Bivens said. “We’ll just see what happens when this new council comes on.”
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.
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