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Arlington's first women's political action committee turns 20. Here's what they've accomplished

Members of MPAC Arlington pose holding a banner that says "20 years helping build the dream city." A table of books sits to the side.

MPAC Arlington Sept2023 Arlington Library Book Donation photographed Monday, September 11, 2023 at the George Hawkes Central Library Arlington, Texas. Photography by Bruce E Maxwell.
Bruce E. Maxwell
BMAXX ENTERPRISES (Courtesy photo)
Members of MPAC Arlington celebrated their 20-year anniversary at the George W. Hawkes Downtown Library Sept. 11, 2023.

Former Arlington City Council member Sheri Capehart thought something was missing during her first couple campaigns: there were no women's groups focused specifically on local nonpartisan issues.

Capehart founded MPAC Nov. 10, 2003, alongside a group of community-involved women. The group, which currently has at least 40 members, picks a handful of issues each year to champion to city council members. The group stays out of partisan issues, but it holds candidate forums for local office and makes endorsements.

The group's focuses have varied over the years, from advocacy for the city's smoke-free ordinance to resurrecting the Caelum Moor statues that sit in Richard Greene Linear Park.

Capehart was also the longest-serving Arlington City Council member. She was initially elected in 2000 to represent southwest Arlington as District 2 council member. She served nearly every year until 2020, when voter-approved term limits forced out people with more than three terms on council.

She spoke with KERA's Kailey Broussard about MPAC's contributions to the city, as well as her time on city council.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Founding MPAC

Sheri Capehart: I was in my second time of campaigning in 2000, I had noted again that there weren't very many forums that women attended very well. And there wasn't anything that I discovered in my two campaigns at that time that was really totally focused by women on issues facing the city. So I thought there needs to be. From there, I went and I formed MPAC.

MPAC's impactful work

Sheri Capehart: One of our very first ones was Arlington Animal Services, and we had advocated for a new center that was a heavy lift, but we stayed focused and we got it done. And it's a center that's one of the best in the nation. We're very proud of our involvement there.

Another one was with regard to the Caelum Moor stones. They had been lying in the Pierce-Burch Water treatment plant for a couple of decades, if I recall correctly. I was on council at the time, so we had formed this TIF [Tax Increment Financing] district for what was going to be Glory Park out around the old ballpark. Glory Park didn't happen, but we had already been accumulating money in the TIF district. And so I approached the city manager about one of the things we were going to do in Glory Park, which is put the Caelum Moor stones back up.

That was really important because the creator, the actual man who sculpted the stones, had been basically begging the city for many years to, you know, if you're not going to put them up, send them or sell them to another city. And a couple of us on council said, "No," because it was a million-dollar art piece. And when are we going to get another million-dollar art piece, right?

Another one was for wine and beer sales and in grocery stores we had to go out and work with a consultant and get signatures. That, too, was a heavy lift. But the game-changer in the revenue that came back to the city and then three or four years later when Dalworthington Gardens and Pantego put in package stores, well, no longer where people from Arlington drive into Fort Worth for liquor.

Now we've been very involved in some of the environmental things, which is a new focus for MPAC — everything from trash collection to stormwater management to tree ordinances to monarch butterflies to being all of these things that can accumulate and protecting the environment for better health for our citizens.

MPAC's 2023 priorities

Sheri Capehart: We have a standing committee monitor city council. Because this is MPAC's 20th anniversary, one of our committees was populated with people who wanted to help us celebrate our 20th anniversary. We've made it our mission to go around the city every month and partner with somebody else in the city.

We've made it our mission for this year to be able to show MPAC's stability and reliability and how we've partnered with other things around the city. And we're going to co-celebrate with these other entities."

When the candidates came through our forum, one of the things we asked them from that group and that group does the interview, the individual groups, do the interviews, they ask them about our tree impact fee. We have the lowest tree impact fee in the region, and yet we have the largest remaining stand of the Cross Timbers forest. You would think we would have the highest because we have more to preserve. Some cities don't even have a tree ordinance because they have very few native trees, but with the cross timbers forest or some people call it the iron forest. We had a professor from UTA come in and brief the council when I was there and the impact of that forest, the need to preserve more of those trees is great, but we have not amended our tree impact fee for over 30 years. We're trying to bring that to the council's attention.

The candidates that came through our forum all agree said we need to get it on a council agenda to have a discussion and yet it hasn't appeared. And that was back in March. That committee is writing a letter to mayor and council on this issue and a lot of it, they get busy. I get it. I was serving there for 20 years. I know you get busy and something else becomes a higher priority. So a group like Impact in a very respectful way will be there to say, "Hey, this was our issues and it's still our issue ... this is a nudge to remind you of that."

Then, we have another group that was really a group and it was like called Community Connection to make sure that many of our members in they already are are connected to other things within the city, whether it's through your school, whether it's through your church, whether it's through Rotary or Optimist or Junior League, where else are we connected? Where else does the group of women impact connected? We want to list and we want to make sure that we keep those connections healthy and viable so we can lift all boats.

Future topics of interest to Arlington

Sheri Capehart: We're going to continue to grow our tourism, and that's vital to this city. And we are uniquely situated for that. With the new Ocho Hotelgoing to come online, the new consumer convention center space coming online, we're going to have more and more and more people visiting our city. I know the council is very aware of that. I know Trey Yelverton, our city manager, probably loses sleep over it in a positive way because you want this. But have we done enough? And so that always comes back to, "what kind of public transportation are we providing?" We have Via, which has been a godsend, in my opinion, and it's unique and it's not many cities the size of Arlington can boast of almost door-to-door service like we have with Via.

But when you draw in large conventions and let's say you fill the Ocho and you fill the Live! By Loews Hotel and then you fill the people at the ballparks or at AT&T Stadium and you've got all the concert goers, is that going to be enough in the future? I don't have that answer, but I think the question that we've got to continue to grapple with.

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

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Kailey Broussard covers Arlington for KERA News and The Arlington Report. Broussard has covered Arlington since 2020 and began at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram before joining the station in 2021.