As Fort Worth’s Longest-Serving Mayor Says Goodbye, Betsy Price Doesn’t Rule Out Leaving The Public Spotlight For Good

Price spoke with Texas Standard about her handling of police violence against Black Fort Worthers, the city’s response to COVID-19 and advice for her successor.

By Jill Ament & Caroline CovingtonApril 29, 2021 1:13 pm

On Saturday, Fort Worth residents will elect a new mayor for the first time in a decade. Mayor Betsy Price announced in January that she would not be seeking reelection. Price is Fort Worth’s longest-serving mayor.

Price spoke with Texas Standard about that decision, what she learned while on the job and advice she has for her successor.

On deciding not to seek reelection:

“There’s never going to be a great time to step down, you know? And I’ve been blessed to be able to serve for 10 years. And I’ve got little grandchildren that are growing up front of my eyes, and I need a time with them and I need a chance to travel with my husband.”

On Fort Worth’s growth in size and diversity:

“We’re [the] 13th largest [city in America]. And with the census data, we expect to probably move to 12th, and we’ll be real close to pushing a million people. … I think we’re actually about 34% Hispanic and about 19% African American, and then Caucasian and some Vietnamese. We’re a very diverse city, and I don’t think people really realize how big we are or how diverse we are. And it’s part of what makes for such a special place to be.”

On her regrets and lessons:

“The only big challenge that I regret is the handling of the Jaqueline Craig issue – the first big racial issue that we had four years ago. Now, I just don’t know that we did it as well as we did. But what we learned from it allowed us, when Atatiana Jefferson was shot, to have a much better response.”

On ending police violence against Black Fort Worthers:

“After the Jacqueline Craig issue, we formed the Race and Culture Task Force, and they came forward with 22 strong recommendations that councils adopted and implemented either 18 or 19 of them, and the other two or three will be implemented – one of them being hiring a new director of diversity and inclusion and a police monitor. … I think the real issue here is you’ve got to get in the neighborhoods and you’ve got to rebuild that trust.”

On “policing” people living with mental health and substance use disorders:

“We’ve got a new crisis response team that’s responding to mental health issues. That’s a much softer response than, say, a SWAT team or someone going out. They go out and uniforms [that] don’t look as much like police uniforms, with mental health professionals to try to intervene peacefully on the front side.”

On the city’s response to COVID-19:

“I’ve been very pleased with our response to COVID-19. Nobody has gotten this 100% right because nobody’s ever had to deal with a pandemic before.”

On jump-starting the local economy during the pandemic:

The money that we got, the [CARES Act] dollars that came in, the first federal act, we did not want to use that just for city services; we wanted it to go to help with the vaccination program [and] to help get that funding into the hands of businesses. And we put 34% of the dollars we got immediately in the hands of small- and mid-sized businesses to try to get our economy jump-started again. … The public-private partnerships have made a huge difference in helping us get it going, and our economy is really beginning to take off again.”

On what her successor will need to do to fight COVID-19:

“I think the most important thing they can do right now is push vaccinations. I mean, what are we in Texas, only about 35% vaccinated? We’ve simply got to get to herd immunity, to get to where we can have our economy reopen and really rolling. We’re probably never going to be back to what we would consider ‘normal’; it’s going to be a new normal. But I think my successor’s got to focus on the vaccination. They’ve got to focus on rebuilding the trust of people and letting them know it can be done safely.”

On state versus local control during the pandemic:

“Austin and the governor seem to think they can paint everybody with one brush, and I just don’t think that’s the case. Local leaders, as you know, are the ones on the ground, with boots on the ground. We’re the ones who see these constituents and know what they want. And we see our business leaders and hear their concerns. Clearly, they do, too, but not to the same level that we do. We’re their partners; we’re not working against them in Austin, and they shouldn’t be working against us either.”

On what’s next for her:

“I’ve always been involved in service at one level or another, and I’m not one to sit still for very long. So, I’m sure I’ll be doing something, whether it’s on the public side or the private side, at some point. You know, I don’t think you ever say no to anything. I think I’m open to looking at all kinds of things at this point. First, I’m just looking forward to having a little family time.”

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