Outgoing Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price Says Farewell After A Decade In Office
Fort Worth's longest serving mayor may be stepping down, but she won't be idle long. Last week, Price announced she plans to run for Tarrant County Judge next year.
In an interview with KERA's Sam Baker, Price said her 10 years in the mayor's office were well-spent, but she wants to spend more time with her family — especially her grandchildren.
"I looked at my two oldest grandchildren. They were three and four when I took office and they're 13 and 14 now," Price said. "I just looked at... my husband and I said, 'It's time to back up a little bit, find something that's just a little bit less stressful, not quite as demanding.' Because the mayor's job is truly a 24/7, 365 job."
Price said one of her biggest successes during her tenure was helping to balance the city's budget.
"The city was $50 million underwater in their general fund when I took office and the pension fund was growing dramatically," Price said. "We now have a very balanced budget and we've fixed the pension for our employees, for our police and fire officers and to reduce the liability on citizens. And, we've cut the tax rate under my leadership 12 cents in the last six years."
Looking back, Price said it's hard to pinpoint one thing she would've done differently and that there's always going to be something more she wishesshe could've done. But she ultimately thinks the city's made great progress in the last decade, especially when it comes to "race relations."
"We've hired a diversity and inclusion director, we've got a fairly new police chief who's real innovative and creative," Price said. "I'm very pleased with where it's gone. I'm really not one to look back on what I didn't get done, but rather to look and say, 'can we learn from these lessons and what can we do going forward?'"
In 2018, Fort Worth's Task Force on Race and Culture made 22 recommendations the city should put in place to help correct issues of equity. Price said the committee's suggestions are not being ignored, as some people say. She said the city council has adopted all the recommendations and is in the process of implementing them.
"It isn't that they're being ignored. They're being worked on and the recommendation will come back. The council will put something in place," Price said.
When asked if there was need for substantial change in the Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD), Price said there are already efforts underway and that she "feels very good" about where the FWPD is at now. But she said there's always room for improvement.
Unity in the city has been a topic of discussion throughout the recent election and beyond. Price said she thinks there's work to be done, but the city is not as divided as some say.
"I see Fort Worth as a city where there is some hurting and there is some lack of understanding," she said. "I know there's a lot of work yet to be done. There's a lot of work to be done in education. The report on education in every major U.S. city, including Fort Worth, is not good. I don't see a true division in this city. I see a city where there's great opportunity and great challenges to be solved."
Price said improving education was one of her priorities as mayor because it's "the backbone of everything we do."
"Our workforce has to have an education for us to continue to attract healthy businesses, to have the quality of life that we want," Price said. "We have to have well-educated citizens. We have to have college graduates. We have to have technical people. If you don't have good education, your crime goes up, your poverty goes up. People's health is impacted with the lack of education. So the mayor has to use their bully pulpit to help the school districts with education."
Looking to the future, Price said the incoming mayor Mattie Parker should focus on community engagement — reaching out to every corner of the city to make sure their needs are heard.
Price said it's going to be an almost entirely new city council as well as a new mayor, so their first hurdle will be learning to work together effectively.
"There are six new members, counting the mayor, on a council of nine. They've got to gel together and learn to work together, and redistricting is hot on their heels," she said. "They'll be forced into redistricting and adding two more seats. That's a very critical issue for this city, how those districts get drawn."
But, Price said she's confident that Parker and the new council members are up to the task.
Parker and the new Fort Worth City Council members will officially be sworn in Tuesday night during the 7 p.m. City Council meeting.
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