With Marty Leonard and Jim Lane off the ballot for the first time in 17 years, there was little doubt that the face of Tarrant Regional Water District leadership would change after the May 6 election.
Two Fort Worth real estate leaders, Paxton Motheral and Charles “CB” Team, are ready to fill their shoes, according to unofficial election results released Saturday night.
Motheral, which maintained a huge lead in fundraising throughout the campaign, polled 32.2% of the vote, with 100% of districts reporting. Team, a commercial real estate agent, finished in second place with 29.8% of the vote.
Pantego City Manager Joe Ashton polled 19.8% of the vote, while locomotive engineer Chad Moore reported 18.2%. Voters could choose one, two, or none of the candidates before rolling out their ballot.
Board members have a myriad of responsibilities, including overseeing the ongoing performance of General Manager Dan Buhman and the Water District’s involvement in the Panther Island/Central City Flood Control Project. The five-member board also weighs in on TRWD’s infrastructure contracts and overall strategy to provide water, recreation and flood control to Fort Worth area residents.
Motheral, 39, oversees the Clearfork mixed-use luxury development in southwest Fort Worth. During his election night bash at the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame, Motheral said he was excited to begin the role and relieved to have the campaign in the rearview mirror.
“Tonight was a little surreal, I didn’t know what it was going to be like,” she said. “This is my first time in the political arena, but I’m excited to get started, roll up my sleeves, represent voters and get back to focusing on water supply.”
Motheral co-hosted the party with Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker and District 7 city council candidate Macy Hill, whose husband James Hill serves on the water district board. Three water district board members — Hill, Leonard and board chairman Leah King — were in attendance Saturday night.
“This was a sleepy place a few years ago, until people really realized the vitality of water quality in downtown Texas around healthy water districts,” Parker told supporters, before thanking Leonard for his service.
Third time is the charm for Team, who raced unsuccessfully in 2019 and 2021. Team, 40, has a head start on serving on the board. In January, Team was named to finish Lane’s term following Lane’s death in November.
The campaign was exhausting but rewarding, Team said, and he is excited to continue serving his community by focusing on the Water District’s core missions of water supply, flood protection and recreation.
“(The campaign) reminds me that so many want to be heard, and I need to be accessible and keep listening so I can represent them well,” Team said.
He congratulated every candidate in every county contest for jumping into the ring, adding, “There’s a place to build a great Fort Worth.”
Previous water district races have attracted more competitors and smaller winning margins. In 2021, seven candidates ran for three seats. That year, the Team lost a board seat by 1,500 votes.
With four candidates in the 2023 race, Motheral has amassed more than $134,000 in war loot, more than all of her opponents combined. The next closest, Team, raised nearly $53,000 between January and April 26, according to campaign financial reports.
Team and Motheral had several major donors in common, including the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors PAC, Our Water Our Future PAC, Kelly Hart PAC, and Freese and Nichols PAC. Leonard, the outgoing board member, donated $2,000 each to Motheral and Team.
Motheral’s donors also included her uncles, State Representative Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth and former United States Representative Pete Geren, as well as other notable Fort Worth donors. She received $5,000 each from the Walsh Ranches Limited Partnership and Accountable Government Fund, which is funded primarily by Sundance Square co-owner Ed Bass.
Ashton, whose supporters included critics of the water district’s transparency policies and closed meetings, reported about $29,000 in monetary contributions. Moore, who was seeking political office for the first time, reported no contributions or expenses.
Both candidates said they are eager to see the water district move on from a leadership scandal in 2021 that has led to public outcry and policy changes. They also pledged to withdraw from any voting that creates a conflict of interest with their real estate careers.
Motheral is chair of the board of Streams & Valleys, the non-profit organization focused on the Trinity River, and plans to step down from her formal role soon due to the organization’s close working relationship with the water district. Once he and the team are sworn into their positions at the next board meeting on May 16, Motheral expects to hear and learn a lot.
“I have a good idea of some of the issues, but I personally will try to dig in and figure out what are the most pressing priorities and things on the agenda that need to be addressed,” Motheral said, with her young son by her side.
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact them at [email protected].
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