Garland Mayor Resigns Following Park Vote

Mayor says he has 'heartfelt sadness' in city's handling of armory plans

Garland Mayor Douglas Athas announced his resignation late Tuesday night following a council vote to demolish the old Air National Guard Armory to build a skate and dog park.

Athas posted his resignation on his Facebook page at 11:39 p.m, but he first told council and constituents his plan during Tuesday's council meeting.

"Personal agendas have bloomed on the council to the point that the citizens and staff suffer from poor governance and I can't morally be a part of it," his post stated. [[451417413,C]]

The mayor said citizen surveys showed they did not want the park in the armory's location.

"Overwhelmingly the people have said they do not wish to go forward and tear this down," he said. "The truth is we do not have to put a skate park and dog park precisely right here. There are other open spaces."

The decision to demolish the armory passed six to three. City officials say work to clear the building could begin as soon as November.

Many of the people who oppose the idea live in Garland's Embree neighborhood, which backs up to controversial site.

Neighbors against the plan say they signed a petition that council didn't consider.

"I'm so upset. I'm so upset. I've lived here since 2004, and I spend a lot of time in the park. And I'm all for improvements in the park and have advocated for it for years, but these are not the improvements this neighborhood has asked for," said Elizabeth Morris Snell.

She said she supports the mayor's decision to step down.

Garland Mayor Douglas Athas announced his resignation after the city council voted 6-3 to move forward with demolishing the old air national guard armory to build a skate and dog park.

Athas served as the city's mayor during a series of deadly tornadoes Dec. 26, 2015, and a shooting outside a Prophet Muhammad art contest the same year.

He was first elected mayor in 2013 and won his third consecutive term in an election in a landslide vote earlier this year.

"I'm here to be a change factor. Whether I'm a part of that moving forward or not is not important. I've got 20 years of service. I've served on city council longer than anyone in the last 75 years, so I think I have a little experience in this," Athas said. "It's important to me that we do things the right way. That we make sure the citizens are always protected and they always have a word into their process. If we deviate from that, then I'm going to deviate from whatever someone's trying to do. My job is to protect the citizens and their interest. I’m not accountable to anyone other than the citizens."

Athas says he plans to step down sometime early next year. When asked about interim leadership should he step down before May's election, his office says it's too soon to know.

NBC 5 reached out to the council members who voted in favor of demolishing the building. So far, no one has commented.

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