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40 Under 40 Edition

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Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker

40 Under 40 Alumnus of the Year

John Henry
FWBP Contributor

Mattie Parker as a member of the 40 Under 40 Class of 2013 was merely a matter of recognizing the ladder she was rapidly climbing.

Parker was then working for Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, and would soon go on to work for another political powerhouse, Mayor Betsy Price.

As for the 2013 40 Under 40 honor? It turned out to be somewhat prophetic.  

Eight years later, the Fort Worth Business Press is recognizing Fort Worth’s new mayor as its 40 Under 40 Alumnus of the Year. It seems right, just shortly after cementing her stature as a fast riser in June when, at age 37, she became the youngest leader of a major American city with her election as mayor in June.

“I’m absolutely honored to have been recognized in 2013 and again this year by the Fort Worth Business Press 40 Under 40,” Parker said through a spokeswoman. “Fort Worth is filled with exciting and innovative young leaders that are learning from the ones who came before us and inspiring the next generation to do the same.

“It is a privilege to be counted among such an incredible group.”

The 40 Under 40 Awards recognize the accomplishments of rising stars of the community in business and public service, all under the age of 40. From the corporate sector to entrepreneurialism to nonprofits, these individuals have been recognized as at the forefront of a new generation dedicated to preserving and advancing the tradition of leadership that makes Tarrant County a great place to live and work.

Before her election, Parker was founding CEO of Fort Worth Cradle to Career and the Tarrant To & Through (T3) Partnership, which aims to ensure more students have the training needed for today’s workforce. Prior to that she was the chief of staff to Price and the Fort Worth City Council.

Parker and her husband, David, have one daughter and two sons. Mattie Parker graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and has a law degree from Texas A&M University School of Law where she was awarded the prestigious MacLean & Boulware Endowed Law Scholarship.

How did it all begin? It started while she worked as a waitress in a restaurant while in college at the University of Texas.

At one of her tables was a chief communications aide to Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick who invited her to apply for a communications internship in his office. The now former speaker was perhaps her biggest cheerleader during her run for mayor, which she won with a runoff victory against Deborah Peoples.

She arrived as a candidate for mayor the old-fashioned way: work. As a law school student, she also worked as an aide to  Granger. On top of all that, she was a mother of three children.

She said that’s the work ethic – as well as an ability figuratively to juggle fire – that she would bring to City Hall.

She campaigned as if influenced by her former boss in Austin, Craddick, vowing to work not as a partisan but only in advancing the interests of the city and its residents.

Craddick earned a reputation of extending a hand across the aisle. As Speaker, Craddick appointed then-state Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, as Speaker Pro Tempore. Today Turner is mayor of Houston and a colleague of Parker.

Politics and governing are also in the blood. Parker’s paternal grandfather Cecil Pearcy was a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives from Bell County from 1958-64. He was also an assistant Attorney General of Texas from 1964-78, as well as an associate of one of Texas’ political giants: Lyndon Baines Johnson.

A betting man or woman likely would not get good odds of the mayorship being her last political stop.

Jim Wright was 27 when he was elevated to mayor of Weatherford in 1950 on his way to the U.S. Congress and ultimately, like fellow Texans Nance and Sam Rayburn, pounding the biggest gavel as the Speaker of the House. Tom Vandergriff was 25 when he was elected mayor of Arlington in 1951. Vandergriff served in that office for years before his election to the U.S. Congress and later Tarrant County judge.

All of that is poppycock at the moment. Parker said her calling and her priority are Fort Worth.

Nonetheless, it’s probably best to keep in mind that though many realized in 2013 that her future prospects were hotter than a Texas summer, few thought that they’d be calling her “mayor” in 2021.

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