Tuesday evening’s city council meeting at the Fort Worth Convention Center was ceremonial and celebratory. After record voter turnout, Fort Worthians elected Mayor Mattie Parker, the 37-year-old former chief of staff for soon-to-be-former mayor Betsy Price and Fort Worth City Council, and four new city councilmembers: Elizabeth Beck (District 9), Leonard Firestone (District 7), Chris Nettles (District 8), and Jared Williams (District 6).
After the presentation of the American flag by members of Dunbar High School’s Junior ROTC program, the evening’s MC, Price, approved the election results and gave each city councilmember and Parker certificates of election. The first councilmember-elect to step onto the stage, Williams, was welcomed with applause and cheers from the crowd of a few hundred.
Community leader and business executive Estress Tucker gave the opening remarks.
“What a beautiful sight,” he said. “First and foremost, congratulations. You are a beautiful reflection of our democracy in action — the power and the promise of voting. The precious and sometimes unpredictable voice of the people. Imperfect yet always worthy of protecting. In our city, there is much to celebrate, and there is much that needs changing. Our people rarely agree on what needs celebrating and what needs changing. If we could agree, we probably wouldn’t need a city council. I recognize that your leadership significantly frames the future of our city. May your collective leadership ever be in service to ‘We, the People.’ ”
As the swearing ceremony began, Pastor Joseph Williams swore in his son, Jared.
“I only wish that your mother was present to see this,” Joseph said before stating the oath of office that Jared dutifully repeated.
“My fellow neighbors, I’m deeply humbled by this call to serve,” Williams told the audience after he was sworn in. “On July 21, 2020, I declared my candidacy for District 6 on what would have been my mom’s 63rd birthday. The past year was rough. We lost loved ones. We lost jobs and homes. I ran this race because, like many of you, I realized the pivotal moment we were in, amid a pandemic, deep social tensions, and a vulnerable local economy. I chose to do something about it. I realized that the road to a world-class Fort Worth depends on the health and well-being of our neighborhoods, each and every one of them.”
Firestone spoke next.
“I’m grateful and humbled for the opportunity,” Firestone said. “I was inspired to run for city council for a number of reasons. I believe great leaders listen. Throughout the campaign, I went doorstep to doorstep and talked to people. I learned about the things that they loved about our city and the things that troubled them. There was commonality in the wants and needs of citizens: to focus on quality-of-life issues that we all share, strive for exceptional city services, lower our property taxes, ensure safe neighborhoods, improve infrastructure and mobility issues, and ensure the best possible police, fire, and first responder agencies. Lastly, work to protect our neighborhoods when considering business development.”
Nettles opened by asking his family and extended family to stand.
“Fort Worth and District 8 have the possibility to change like they have never changed before,” he said. “Now, we are in the game. I stand ready to fight for my people. Today, I remind you of a beautiful soul by the name of Atatiana Jefferson who was murdered in her home by a former Fort Worth police officer. [I ask] that we speed up the trial to [Officer] Aaron Dean. Her life did matter, and it was taken for her. We cannot allow another six months or a year to go by and do nothing. We are going to stand until something takes place. The only way we can right wrong is if we fix what is wrong. We must implement a citizen’s review board” to monitor the Fort Worth police department.
Beck focused on a message of unity.
“There has been so much discussion about how young our council is today,” she said. “We’re not just young. We have young children. We have jobs. What Fort Worth has tonight is a council made of workhorses, not showhorses. There has been a lot of talk about what our partisan politics are on council, but the truth is that we are all here because we all want to work together. I look forward to working with Mayor Parker and my colleagues to get it done and to make sure that Fort Worth continues to be that bright place that offers an opportunity for a young girl from a troubled home to see their way out and to be on this stage today.”
As Parker prepared to address the audience, a few dozen protesters in the rear of the audience stood up and chanted, “We want justice! We want it now!” in referring to Jefferson’s murder.
I would like to show appreciation to United Fort Worth, Parker said in reference to the protest group.
“Thank you for being here,” she continued. “My journey to this moment is made possible by my faith first and the countless people in my life who have built me up — the teachers, mentors, and friends who have always been a phone call away. Much has been made in the media about the partisanship in our city. The question facing our city isn’t whether we go right or left. It is how we move Fort Worth forward. The only thing that I am partisan about is getting things done for Fort Worth. Members of this city council, we may not have it all together, but by working together, we can have it all. We stand before you as a council of incredible leaders from different professions and backgrounds. This is the youngest and most diverse council that Fort Worth has ever had in leadership. Thank you for honoring me to be the mayor of Fort Worth, Texas, and, remember, it’s go-time in Fort Worth, Texas.”