Burns steps off Fort Worth City Council to colleagues’ accolades

By Scott Nishimura snishimura@bizpress.net

Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns closed out his final meeting representing the Near Southside Tuesday, stepping off the council to pursue a graduate degree at Harvard University.

Burns thanked his family, constituents, community volunteers “who inspired me to serve,” city staff members, and his aides and council colleagues. Mayor Betsy Price presented Burns with a rocking chair.

“We don’t always agree on things, but these folks do an awesome job representing the diversity of voices in Fort Worth, because I recognize that not everybody in Fort Worth thinks like the folks in District 9,” Burns said in a speech.

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Burns joked that his cholesterol shot up, he gained 40 pounds, and he “shuttered” his business while serving nearly seven years on the council, but that his marriage to husband J.D. Angle survived. He joked that friends, including council colleagues, were taking bets before the meeting on when he would start crying; Burns finally choked up when all of his council colleagues spoke and he had a few last words.

Burns, who represented a big district that includes the Near Southside, downtown and near West Side, singled out all of his council colleagues individually for praise.

On public service, he said, “we cannot fix every wrong, we cannot fill every pothole, but on occasion, we can take bold action…things that provide leadership, that change peoples’ lives. I’ve been given an incredible opportunity to do that on the council.”

Burns said he would return to Fort Worth after his year at Harvard is up, and he looked forward to trying to find a job and a way to pay off the student loans he incurs at Harvard.

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Council members paid tributes from the dais to Burns.

“He is a man of integrity and personal courage,” Councilman Dennis Shingleton said. “It’s not easy to take an unpopular stand on issues sometimes, which we have done and possibly are about to do.”

The council later in the evening was scheduled to vote on a controversial incentive package for a development group in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Councilman Sal Espino praised Burns for his support of inner city initiatives, and infrastructure and transportation. He said Burns’ expertise in social media helped the city pass critical bond packages.

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Espino joked he learned one important lesson from Burns: “Don’t pick a fight with Joel on Twitter.”

Mayor Pro Tem W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman said, “I think we all agree, there are greater things ahead for you.”

Councilman Danny Scarth said Burns’ ability to draw on his life’s experiences is what “will make you successful at Harvard.”

Price said “I really have found a great partners…in customer service initiatives, intent to get greater communication…You were instrumental in the selection of the new city manager, great questioning.”

Ann Zadeh and Ed Lasater are in a runoff June 21 to succeed Burns, and both were in the gallery for Tuesday’s meeting.