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'We Got Our Swagger Back.' Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings Gives Final State Of The City Speech

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings in his city hall office.
Bill Zeeble
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings in his city hall office.

Outgoing Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings took office in 2011 with experience as a business executive and as a city appointee helping the homeless. But in order to lead all of Dallas, he was going to need a vision.

With six months left in his final term, Rawlings gave his final State of the City address Tuesday in the form of a conversation with Rudy Bush, deputy editor of editorials at the Dallas Morning News.

I knew organizations," Rawlings said. "When you set visions for them, you need to understand what their DNA is and then figure out some card up your sleeve, some game changer, that nobody had thought about." 

For Rawlings, the first part was simple, he told Bush. He thought of modern Dallas as a business town, as "Big D," based on bigger than life leaders like Ross Perot, Herb Keliher and Stanley Marcus.

“We have Jerry Jones and Mark Cuban. It’s kind of this swagger that was out there, and I felt we had lost a little bit of that.”

Getting it back meant trying to deliver on campaign promises. Rawlings had stressed education and worked with the Dallas school district. He pushed economic development south of the Trinity River, calling the effort Grow South. People told him his speech during the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination helped erase Dallas’ nickname as the City of Hate.

Rawlings said early on he decided to partner with other leaders, like Fort Worth mayor Betsy Price, instead of fighting with them.

“She and I got together the week after we both got elected. We said we’ve got to stop this feuding and work together.

"And ever since then, we’ve been kissin’ cousins, ok?” Rawlings said to laughter and applause.

Rawlings hopes Dallas’ next mayor continues that cooperative relationship, because it benefits North Texas.

He also praised the Dallas Police and its leaders, with whom he worked closely through the July 7 downtown shootings two years ago. He said he helped fix the department’s troubled pension system, though it was a struggle.  

Through it all, Rawlings says he accomplished what he set out to do.

“I think we got our swagger back,” Rawlings said with a smile.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.