Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price will not seek re-election, ending her 10-year stint as mayor and leaving the 2021 race up for grabs.
Price made the announcement during a news conference Tuesday morning at city hall, where she said her time serving as mayor has been one of her "greatest joys" in life next to being a mother and grandmother.
"It’s a hard decision, but it’s the right thing at this time. Coming to that conclusion is nothing that we came to lightly. I’ve been in conversation with my children who are here, my grandchildren, my husband, my minister for some time now," Price said. "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 felt called to do this job, I felt called to step aside."
Price, 71, was elected in 2011 after serving as Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector and is in her fifth two-year term, making her the longest-serving mayor in Fort Worth's history.
In an exclusive interview with NBC 5 prior to the announcement, Price said it was not any single incident that contributed to her decision, but "this just feels like the right time."
"I love the job and I love this city," Price said. "And I was raised in a family, and you've heard me say this, that believes service is what you do. You give something back to your community, and this has been my form of service."
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"Having been tax assessor and now mayor, I've served for 20-plus years," Price said. "In May, it will be a little over 20 years, but there's always going to be something that you want to accomplish, something that you feel like you need to continue, there's no 'good time.'"
Price also revealed how her family reacted to the news.
"My daughter was not the least bit surprised," she said. "I've been talking a lot to her, and she was ready for me to say 'No.' My boys were a bit surprised. They grew up with me doing this and being tax assessor. They just couldn't imagine me not doing it. They said, 'Mother, what on Earth will you do? You are not one to sit around eating bonbons and reading a book.' I said, 'Daddy and I will travel some. We can babysit.'"
Price in November tested positive for COVID-19 and was among the first patients in North Texas to get a new antibody intravenous infusion. She said she suffered "severe flu-like symptoms with a high fever, a little cough, just chills and body aches” before recovering.
At the press conference Tuesday, Price said leading the community through the pandemic has been one of the most difficult challenges during her time as mayor.
"Like many U.S. cities, we’ve worked through the challenges of the pandemic and civil unrest in the wake of racial tensions," she said. "It wasn’t easy and we didn’t always get it right, but we’ve given it our best and we’ve done a pretty good job – I would say."
However, Price noted she felt the city's accomplishments far exceeded the challenges. When she took office, the city was still reeling from the aftershocks of the recession.
"The city’s pension fund was in terrible problems. The possibility of an urban renaissance of our great city had yet to be realized. Cars and trucks were really the only way to move around in this city," she said. "[Today] we have a sustainable pension fund that we worked hard on. We’ve improved essential city services to our residents and we’ve cut our tax rate 12 cents."
Bob Ray Sanders, former co-chair of the city's Race and Culture Task Force, said he knew Price had been contemplating a decision but he was surprised about Tuesday's announcement.
"Fort Worth has been lucky to have good mayors for a long time. I mean, really dedicated people at a time when they didn’t make any money at all. They get somewhat of a salary now but you just have dedicated people. She just came in with that same dedication," Sanders said. "She’s one of the hardest working mayors that I have seen in the city of Fort Worth, long hours from morning until night. She’s working."
Sanders said he expected the field of applicants to be among the largest the city has seen.
"It's going to be competitive because there are a lot of people waiting for a chance to run. I would guess there are at least four members of the city council who want that job. That in itself would be competitive," he said.
A Fort Worth native, Price is a graduate of Arlington Heights High School and the University of Texas at Arlington.
Price has not yet endorsed a successor but advised whoever runs for the job to do so knowing that it's a 24-7-365 commitment. She said the candidate should be motivated by service to Fort Worth and its citizens.
Mayoral candidates are able to begin filing campaign paperwork beginning next week.
Tarrant County Democratic Party chair Deborah Peoples confirmed to NBC 5 Tuesday, she intends to run. District 9 councilmember Ann Zadeh wrote on Facebook Tuesday that she also intended to run.
District 3 councilmember Brian Byrd is expected to make an announcement on his intention in the next week, while state representative Ramon Romero said he is "considering" a run.
NBC 5's Deborah Ferguson contributed to this report.