Criminal JusticeIssuesLocal NewsTaxes & SpendingFort Worth Adds Two New Council Districts, Only Three Seats Unopposed

With 11 seats instead of nine, Fort Worth residents have many candidates seeking to represent them on the city council.
February 22, 2023
In March 2022, Texas’ fifth-largest city adopted a new city council map and created two new districts, increasing the number of city council members from nine to 11. New city council members will be elected on May 6.

District 10 is in the northernmost section of the city. District 11 takes in parts of the center and areas to the north and east.

Residents can find which district they are in by using the city’s mapping tool.

Districts 2 and 3

City council members Carlos Flores and Michael Crain filed for the seats they currently hold, and neither drew an opponent.

District 4

Two candidates filed for the District 4 seat currently held by Alan Blaylock. Blaylock is running in District 10 after the redistricting process changed the district in which he resides.

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Teresa Ramirez has lived in District 4 with her family since 2007. She describes herself as a supporter of American patriotism and the “values of the U.S. Constitution.” She has been a community liaison and worked in the federal Department of Commerce.

“I am confident that I can be a true advocate for the people of District 4 and work effectively with local elected leaders to ensure that their needs are met,” Ramirez told The Texan.

In 2022, she ran in the special election to fill the District 4 seat but was not elected. She is running again because she says she is “passionate about serving her community.”

Top issues in Fort Worth, according to Ramirez, include crime prevention and reducing government overreach. She wants to use her many years of experience participating in the neighborhood watch program to equip District 4 residents “with the knowledge and resources they need for public safety.”

Ramirez plans to work to streamline government services so that “every taxpayer dollar is used effectively and responsibly.” She believes that less government and less spending will help ensure prosperity for all.

Charlie Lauersdorf, a veteran and business owner, believes his military experience equips him to fight “for what matters most and is testament of his ability to face adversity and stand tall.”

He is a TCU graduate, father of six children, and supporter of law enforcement.

On the city council, Lauersdorf “will do whatever it takes to ensure public safety and the safety of police officers is always at the forefront of the City’s priorities.”

Lauersdorf ran for the Republican nomination for Texas House District 113 in 2018 but was unsuccessful.

Lauersdorf did not respond to The Texan’s inquiry before the time of publication.

District 5

Gyna Bivens has served Fort Worth City Council District 5 on the east side of the city since 2013. She is also the mayor pro tempore and presides over the council if Mayor Mattie Parker is absent.

On her website, Bivens touts her work in “attracting commercial development and new housing construction.” She also plans to focus on needed neighborhood street construction and repairs.

Since 2006, Bivens has been president and executive director of North Texas LEAD, a talent search agency whose mission is to increase diversity in corporate leadership.

Bivens serves on several boards and committees both in and outside of the municipal government. She is a member of the National League of Cities’ National Black Caucus and is a board member for the Metropolitan YMCA of Fort Worth.

Two candidates are challenging Bivens for the District 5 seat: William McKinley Jackson and Bob Willoughby.

No stranger to seeking election to the city council, Willoughby has run for the seat five times before, starting in 2015. He is a frequent speaker at city council meetings and believes he can “do the job right” if elected.

Willoughby, who has spent 40 years in business related to concerts and sporting events, believes that the city’s residents are uninformed about the business taking place at city hall. He believes city council members should be involved in more public engagement.

He also cited concerns with the pay level of some city employees.

Jackson is a native Texan and the pastor of Samaria Baptist Church. He is a classically trained musician and holds a bachelor’s degree from Dallas Baptist University, a master’s degree from Houston Graduate School of Theology, and a doctorate from Memphis Theological Seminary.

Jackson serves as a member of the Baptist Ministerial Alliance in Fort Worth. He did not reply to The Texan’s inquiry before the time of publication.

District 6

Incumbent Jared Williams filed to run for re-election representing District 6 in southwest Fort Worth. He was first elected in 2021.

Williams, who was raised in southwest Fort Worth, is an adjunct professor of biology at Tarrant County College and serves with multiple community organizations like the Beta Tau Lambda Charitable Foundation and Leadership ISD, a group whose mission is to promote academic excellence and racial equity.

Recently, Williams proposed a Child Assistance Response and Engagement plan for the city to consider in lieu of curfew ordinance enforcement.

During his service on the city council, Williams’ website cites accomplishments like strengthening neighborhood economics by attracting businesses, investing in roads and infrastructure, and improving public safety.

Italia de la Cruz is challenging Williams to represent District 6. She is a legal immigrant to the United States from Mexico, a naturalized citizen, and a small business owner.

De la Cruz was motivated to get involved because of the “outrageous tax rates” in the city.

“I believe our city needs to prioritize policies that make sense for regular citizens like you and me,” her website states. “Let’s lower taxes, support small businesses, put an end to rising crime and limit government in everyday life.”

Tonya Carter ran for the District 3 city council seat in 2021, but due to redistricting is now running in District 6. She lists her occupation as customer service on her candidate application.

De la Cruz and Carter did not reply to The Texan’s inquiry before the time of publication.

District 7

Leonard Firestone currently represents District 7 on the Fort Worth city council, but he is not seeking re-election.

Three candidates have filed: Jason Ellis, Caleb Backholm, and Macy Hill.

Ellis is a veteran and businessman who started a successful plumbing company after his service. He has never sought elected office before; however, he has been involved in local politics, volunteered on campaigns, and helped found the Northwest Tarrant County Republican Club.

He wants to serve the city that he calls his “forever home” and the constituents in his district. Proof of this, he says, is his willingness to “publicly advertise [his] cell number on [his] literature and website.”

Among the top issues facing Fort Worth, Ellis cites infrastructure and public safety. He says the roads in District 7 on the west side of the city have been neglected. He also wants to ensure that police and fire services have the resources needed to keep up with the growth in that section of the city.

Backholm was born in Portland and grew up in Washington; he claims to have firsthand knowledge of “what bad city government and bad politics can do to cities.” He doesn’t want to see Fort Worth follow the same path.

As the owner of an insurance agency, Backholm believes his understanding of budgets and finances will serve him as a member of the city council. He also points to his background working on campaigns, serving on a school board, and writing politically conservative articles as evidence of his conservative credentials.

Backholm believes the city needs to lower the property tax rate. He is also concerned about rapid growth and wants to limit high-density housing in District 7.

Hill, a Texas Christian University graduate and president of a Fort Worth philanthropic advisory group, believes her “business acumen combined with [her] heart to serve” will allow her to serve the people of District 7.

She told The Texan that when Firestone decided not to run for re-election, she “felt called to step up and serve.” Firestone is listed as her campaign treasurer.

Fort Worth needs to lower property taxes and protect its citizens, according to Hill. She wants to support police officers and firefighters while “fight[ing] against extremists who want to demonize those who put their lives on the line to protect our families.”

Hill also hopes to grow the city’s commercial tax base so that residential property taxes can be lowered.

District 8

Current city council member Chris Nettles is unopposed in seeking re-election to represent District 8.

District 9

Elizabeth Beck, the current city council member for District 9, is seeking re-election after originally winning the seat in 2021. She is a lawyer, veteran, and single mother.

Beck’s website lists her top priorities as economic development that preserves existing neighborhoods, investment in city infrastructure and modernizing government operations, and a focus on increasing the availability of affordable housing.

Her experience includes working as a transportation planner at the North Central Texas Council of Governments. She now works in legal practice representing employees in wage and hour claims.

Four challengers are also seeking the District 9 spot: Jason Pena, Chris Reed, Pamela Boggess, and Taylor Mondick.

Pena prides himself on running a business in the neighborhood where he grew up.

In a press statement about his campaign’s launch, Pena said, “I have decided to run for city council because I no longer recognize the city I grew up in.”

He plans to fight crime, decrease taxes, and “take on radical politicians that have crippled the city.”

Reed runs a digital development company and is a husband and father. He believes his business experience will help him address complex problems and work with people from all walks of life.

While he has never run for office before, Reed told The Texan that he wants to help fix the broken system in Fort Worth, which he says is strained to deliver services to its residents despite its $2.3 billion budget. He would like to help better manage the city.

The top issues facing the city, according to Reed, are the continued operation of Fort Worth as if it were still a small town, and effective regulation of short-term rentals.

Reed hopes to increase civic engagement and find a workable short-term rental policy that balances protecting neighborhoods with keeping “the market above board.”

Boggess is a lawyer and prosecutor who previously ran for the 372nd District Court.

Part of her motivation for running is the “political grandstanding” by the current council member who “pushes an extreme agenda.”

Boggess told The Texan that she would be “a voice for all and focus on finding practical, actionable solutions to issues affecting us.”

She lists lowering taxes and supporting police as the top issues facing Fort Worth. She believes the police are understaffed and need to have proper training and tools to fulfill their mission.

Boggess also wants to be part of a larger coalition to further cut taxes in the city.

Mondick is a small business owner who unsuccessfully ran as a Republican for Texas House District 95 in the general election in November 2022. He could not be reached for comment.

District 10

Alan Blaylock is running to serve in the newly drawn District 10. He has represented District 4 since 2022.

Blaylock is a father of two daughters and is retired. He has served on a variety of community boards and committees, including the Crime Control and Prevention District Advisory Committee and the Arts Council of Fort Worth Advisory Committee.

Blaylock lists his priorities as low taxes, safer neighborhoods, better roads, and improved quality of life.

Brandon Jones is opposing Blaylock for the District 10 council seat. He is a licensed irrigator and home inspector, which he believes equips him to help make environmentally-conscious decisions about infrastructure in the city.

As a resident of north Fort Worth, Jones is of the opinion that the city council has ignored that area for too long.

“There’s virtually no Fort Worth police presence north of Golden Triangle, almost no city resources such as libraries or parks, the roads are a mess, the lights don’t seem like they’ve ever been timed, and warehouses are backing up to neighborhoods causing an explosion in 18- wheeler traffic,” he told The Texan.

Consequently, infrastructure would be Jones’ number one priority if he is elected. His second priority is public safety.

District 11

The newly created District 11 has drawn five candidates: Jeannette Martinez, Rick Herring, Tara Maldonado-Wilson, Christopher Johnson, and Ricardo Avitia.

Martinez is currently the executive administrator to Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks of Precinct 1.  She believes her experience in the commissioner’s office working with constituents and the community has equipped her to run for this position.

She believes she would bring a new perspective to the city council and represent all voices.

Martinez believes economic development is a key issue for the city going forward. “I will promote appropriate development that includes affordable housing opportunities as this is a huge barrier for individuals and families of all socioeconomic statuses,” she told The Texan.

Wilson is a nurse, single mother of three, and small business owner. She believes the hardships she faced growing up with a single mother have given her a unique perspective to offer the city council.

Having run for the city council twice previously, Wilson is looking to represent the newly drawn “Hispanic Opportunity District.”

Wilson told The Texan that the killing of Atatiana Jefferson motivated her to get involved in the city, but was dismayed to find the COVID-19 restrictions kept her voice from being heard.

Wilson believes the city’s top issues include equitable policymaking and community inclusion. She doesn’t believe the city can thrive until its policies include “a context for culture and a context for the communities of color that certain policies more highly impact.”

She also believes the community should be more welcome to provide input to the city council at its meetings and that the work of community task forces should be considered more carefully.

Avitia has served in the U.S. Marine Corps. and as a volunteer youth sports coach and mentor, and works as a compliance officer in higher education. He believes his compliance role equips him for city council service because it requires an “in depth knowledge of analyzing and interpreting policy, protocol, and procedures” along with balancing accounts.

He ran for the city council in 2021, and while he didn’t win, he says he learned much from the experience. He is trying again because he believes he can be the “working class representative” on the council.

Aviitia believes that rising property values are hurting the working class in Fort Worth, and he wants to carefully examine the city books to make sure the budget is steered wisely. He also believes that homelessness is at least in part a result of the high property values. He would like to help the homeless by providing assistance like job placement programs.

Herring is an ERISA consultant who graduated from Fort Worth Independent School District and has two grown children. His website states that his priorities include managing Fort Worth’s growth and development and making the city’s tax burden fairer.

Johnson is an entrepreneur who also ran for the city council in 2021.

Herring and Johnson did not provide responses before the time of publication.

Early voting begins April 24 and ends May 2. Election Day is May 6.


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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.