Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price delivered her final State of the City address in a live-streamed event on Thursday alongside NBC 5's Deborah Ferguson who was emceeing the event.
Price spoke about the current state of Fort Worth and her time as the city's longest-serving mayor and focused on how the city remains strong as it enters the recovery phase of the pandemic.
Price said she was proud of the city for truly showing its strength during the last year. She said Fort Worth went into the pandemic stronger than any other major city and was quick to respond to issues as they crept up.
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The state left the direction of how to handle the pandemic it to city mayors, Price said, so the mayors came together to issue a stay-at-home order that covered 80% of the cities. Then they came back to partner with the counties. Price said it wasn't a perfect response, but a very good, strong response from the team at Fort Worth.
Price said they worked to put millions of dollars into relief for local businesses during the pandemic and also worked to boost WIFI service to neighborhoods lacking reliable internet connectivity. She added they also developed programs to teach parents how to work with their children to get online course materials while also praising the city's librarians for reaching out to 10,000 seniors to check on their welfare during the pandemic.
The mayor said several years ago she envisioned a Fort Worth that was safe, world renowned, innovative, one that finds strength in its diversity, with active communities that invest in their neighborhoods and especially one that lifted up children and public schools.
She said she still believes Fort Worth is that city and that her administration has worked hard to build lasting programs that will benefit people for decades.
"I always say it's the job of each of us to plant trees under whose shade we'll never sit; I wont be at the new City Hall," Price said. "I'm proud to say … the iniatives that we started are all on thier own now and their work will continue long after I'm out of the mayor's chair."
Price was referring to programs like Read Fort Worth, Steer Fort Worth, Fit Worth, Blue Zones, Fort Worth Now, which she said are, "all incredibly important and they're issues we that must be dealt with and they must continue no matter who is here."
Price added, the next mayor will have work cut out for him or her as soon as they enter office.
"Redistricting will be a big issue to deal with right out of the gate. Lead strongly and lead inclusively," Price said Thursday. "Council members, you will draw the map, but you must put Fort Worth first. Not any single district. Community, you may pay attention and be involved."
Price thanked the community during her address, describing her time as a mayor as an honor.
"I hope that the passion that I have would be there in the next person that you select. Our nation has lost its focus on ‘service above self’. We wouldn’t be as politically divided as we are if more elected officials stood up and talked about and did public service, rather than their next office," she said.
Education has always been a top priority for Price, who said her six grandchildren who she said were the fuel for her drive to make Fort Worth better. She recommended citizens pay more attention to school board races and choose people who truly care for their children's education and to stop looking for the same repetitive methods.
She also added, she supported adding more school days to the the current academic year to off-set effects the pandemic has had on schools.
"It won’t be popular with teachers or with parents but really, we can’t have a whole generation that’s lost," she said. "Right now, they’re struggling."
NBC 5 reached out to Fort Worth ISD Thursday regarding Price's suggestion.
“We concur with Mayor Price. Superintendent Scribner has been working toward expanding the school calendar and also lengthening the school day," an emailed statement to NBC 5 states. "We know that our students who are in greatest need benefit most when they receive high quality instruction from our best teachers.”
"This past decade serving as mayor has been the greatest honor of my life," Price said. "I truly believe we've accomplished incredible things together.
Along the way Thursday, Price was joined by Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith, former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and former President George W. Bush, all of who talked about her tenure as mayor while offering congratulations for what she accomplished over the last decade.
Once out of office, Price, an avid cyclist, said she plans to ride her bike even more while also spending more time with her husband Tom, her best friend, and to be a great "tootsie" to her grandchildren.
Price reminds the citizens of Fort Worth that, "The city is strong because each and every one of you has been strong…It has been an honor to serve you, and no matter who comes next. Keep pressing on and keep standing strong, thank you."