Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, the longest serving mayor in the city’s history, announced Tuesday morning she will not seek a sixth term as the city’s top elected official. Price made the announcement at a City Hall press conference.
“Today I’m going to announce that I will not seek a sixth term. It’s a hard decision, but it’s the right thing at this time,” she said.
Price. 71, became Fort Worth’s longest serving mayor when she was elected to a fifth two-year term in 2019. She served as Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector before running for mayor.
The mayor said she had consulted with her family and minister for some time on the decision not to run for re-election. She said there was no specific event or reason that prompted her decision.
“There’s no perfect answer as to the time when you should step aside, but you should step aside when you have the feeling that you’re ready. Just as I was called … I felt called to do this job, I feel called to step aside,” she said.
Price did not say what she plans to do after leaving office but speculation about her future has included the possibility she might run for another office, possibly the Tarrant County Judge position currently held by Glen Whitley whose term expires in 2022. She hinted at the possibility of future public service during her press conference.
“I still have that Energizer bunny energy and passion,” she said. “I’ve always been involved in public service and I’m not going away that easily.”
Price said she was not announcing support for any potential candidates at this time.
“I’m not going to speculate today as to who the next mayor might be or who the best person may be,” she said. “That’ll work itself out in the coming months.”
A number of potential candidates had been awaiting her decision, including her opponent from 2019, Deborah Peoples, the Tarrant county Democratic chairwoman; Dee Kelly Jr. of Fort Worth law firm Kelly Hart; and City Council members Brian Byrd and Ann Zadeh.
Byrd, who represents District 3 on the council, was knocking on doors Tuesday as part of his campaign for reelection to the council.
“I’ll make an announcement within a week,” he said.
Filing for the May 1 municipal elections begins Jan. 13 and continues through Feb. 12.
Price noted that when she took office 10 years ago, Fort Worth was still “reeling from the aftershocks of the recession of ’08 and ’09.”
“The city’s pension fund was in terrible problems and the possibilities of an urban renaissance in our great city had yet to be realized,” she said. “Cars and trucks were really the only way to move around this city. And things have changed dramatically in 10 years.”
Price called Fort Worth “a thriving, diverse and fiscally responsibly strong community.”
She noted that the city now has a sustainable pension fund and that the tax rate has been cut by 12 cents.
“That’s significant. There’s no question, our focus on fiscal responsibility and a diverse economy has allowed Fort Worth to weather the economic storms and weather the pandemic far better than most major cities,” she said.
Despite the tax rate reduction, since 2013 the city’s average property tax bill for homeowners has steadily risen.
“The city has to continue to deliver excellence in service, and it’s very hard to lower the rate enough to meet that guideline when you’re growing at the rate we are,” she said. “We had to balance out the growth of better than 200,000 citizens with being able to cut the tax rate enough. And we’ve worked very hard on balancing the tax base so that the burden isn’t just on homeowners. For a long time, including when I was tax assessor, I realized that Fort Worth’s tax base was upside down, much more heavily dependent on homeowners than it is businesses. And now we’ve gradually seen, we’re still not where we need to be, but we are getting there.”
Price cited several accomplishments during her time at City Hall, including the Blue Zone project that promotes healthy lifestyles and FIT Fort Worth, a program that encourages physical fitness – a key achievement for a mayor who is known for her love of bicycling.
Price also established SteerFW, a young professionals group in 2011, with the goal of increasing participation by younger people in city issues.
“I’m very proud of the number of young leaders that we’ve been able to raise up,” she said. “Somebody said the other day, ‘One of your legacies will be raising young leaders to be the next council, mayor and … representatives in this community.’ I hope that’ll continue. They’ve stood up as a 501(c)3 on their own and are working hard.”
Price said the next mayor will continue to face the issue of managing the city’s growth.
“Redistricting will come up for the next mayor,” she added. “New council seats will be added in 2023. Getting the economy back on its feet. Maybe we’ll get that done before May, but you still have a lot of challenges. There’s plenty of opportunities for the next mayor.”
“You know being mayor has been more fun, more exciting, more challenging, more time consuming and definitely more rewarding than anything I could have ever imagined,” Price said. “I want to thank all of the people of Fort Worth for giving me your trust and confidence and my family for giving me the time. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together.”
While Price is the longest serving mayor in the city’s history, District 6 City Council member Jungus Jordan is running again and he will be the longest-serving council member if reelected. Also confirming he will run again is District 2 Council Member Carlos E. Flores. District 9 Council Member Dennis Shingleton, who, like Price, was first elected in 2011, said he is not running again.
Additional reporting by Paul Harral