City Hall

Hours Before He Becomes Mayor, Caraway Has Message for "Believers, Doubters and Critics"

At midnight, Dwaine Caraway will erase the "pro tem" from his title and become, simply, Dallas Mayor. And though he will replace U.S. Senate candidate Tom Leppert for just a few months, Caraway tells Unfair Park this evening: "It's very humbling to be able to be in this position." He then goes on to say "crazy things" will not happen under his watch. Which would greatly displease Schutze, among others. But, of course, only time will tell.

Caraway, who will be out of town over the weekend, will not begin his term with a press conference on Monday. "I'm too busy for that," he says. "I've got a city to worry about." He also has to prepare himself for the handful of out-of-town trips that quickly appear on his agenda -- including, on Monday night, a sojourn down to Austin, where on Tuesday a council delegation will outline the city's to-do list to state legislators. Caraway will also attend a National League of Cities conference in D.C. next month and the Texas Municipal League meeting in Houston at the end of March.

Caraway has already given up his position as chair of the council's Public Safety Committee; Delia Jasso will replace him. And he says his current assistant, Stephanie Pegues, will become his chief of staff. But Chris Heinbaugh, Leppert's chief of staff, will remain on board, Caraway says: "He will still handle those responsibilities he handled for the mayor. Chris Heinbaugh did a tremendous job and is a tremendous asset for me and my administration."

Caraway and I spoke for a little while this evening, as he prepares for two days off in advance of the coming months. Our short Q&A follows, and it begins before I can even get out a whole Q.

So, you're just hours away from becoming Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway ...

This is a responsibility that has doubled on my lap, and I'm fortunate to have staff that's assisting me with making good decisions. It's very humbling to be able to be in this position. It's not about ego. It's about service and service to the people in the entire city. The council has been a council that has collectively worked together and will continue to do so. I am proud my colleagues feel and felt comfortable enough to move forward under my leadership. We will be making decisions together. There is an agenda that has been set out a year and a half ago at our retreat, and we're still on target to accomplish that.

People should not worry within the four months of my service that things are going to change drastically and crazy things will begin to take place. The chairmanships will remain the same, with one exception: I have elevated Delia Jasso to chair of Public Safety. I will still attend those meetings and still be very active with Public Safety, but I need to have the flexibility to be able to broaden my responsibilities beyond one area and spread it throughout the entire city.

It's important we have someone with a hands-on focus on that committee, which I feel is one of the most important in the city. My No. 1 priority is to crack down on crack houses, get guns out of people's hands, keep folks safe and secure in the community and throughout the city.

There will not be radical changes as people would think. It's not my intention to begin to lead the charge to rehash decisions that this council and administration have already voted on and approved. I would have to adhere to the council should it be something the council would want to do, but certainly I have no intention of leading charges as it relates to changing things around. I would like for the believers, the doubters and the critics to know this: We're in it now, so I challenge folks to live and work together instead of criticizing. Criticism will not help us, but I respect that right. I will not focus on that, though. I will focus on where we're going. I will focus on how we're going to deal with the how we're going to encourage businesses to come to the city, on economic development, on keeping people safe. The negatives I will not be participating in. But when it comes to the positives and the how-we-can-do-it's, I will roll up my sleeves. If we do it, together we'll have the great city folks expect and talk about having. If we play tug-of-war, we'll waste too much time.

This is no ceremonial position. Especially in coming weeks, as you make the city's case to the state Legislature and attend the various conferences on your agenda. There's a lot to get done, including dealing with a budget shortfall yet again. Are you prepared for what lies ahead?

We have one of the best and most experienced councils around. When it comes to transportation, who else is better than Linda Koop? When it comes to economic development, who's better than Ron Natinsky? When it comes to budget and finance, I can't lose with Ann Margolin and Jerry Allen. That being said, when we deal with these legislative issues, we have a team. It's not just what I'm going to do. But the way I've been known to operate is as a team, and you put your best players on the field at all times. And who better to articulate our transportation needs, our economic development needs, our financial needs than the folks who are hands-on with it every day? It's my expectation that I will get it teed up and be there, but we will address these issues from a team perspective and will articulate these things collectively. I will be referring to and relying on those people and those perspectives in those respective positions to assist and make sure our needs are articulated and addressed so we will bring the bacon home to Dallas.

You were elected to represent District 4. But now you're the mayor of the entire city. And nobody's more passionate, if nothing else, about their district than you. I've seen the slide shows. How will you reconcile being a council member with being mayor?

People have never given me the opportunity to find that out. But we're here now. OK? My district will not suffer because we've done extensive work in our district and will be able to carry on. I picked up additional staff members -- Chris Heinbaugh, for example, and others -- and will have to broaden out. I will be committed to serving the entire city. I will always make sure that my district is represented. And with that being said, I have basically an opportunity with additional employees to make sure the district is well-served, and I will do that as their city council representative-slash-mayor and also extend myself throughout the whole city to make sure our city concerns are met, that citizens' concerns in the north, in the south, in the east and in the west are articulated and addressed on a daily basis. That can and will happen.

We're the Dallas Cowboys. It's like, one quarterback gets hurt, the other quarterback gets hurt, and there's nobody left to play quarterback. So Drew Pearson now has to come back under center, and we have to play 10 men instead of 11. Do we get of the field or line up to play? We line up to play. This city council has a reputation as a we-will-get-it-done city council. We work well together. it's not 100 percent of everybody being on the same page, but at the end of the day, positive things have happened for tihs city. We haven't had many split votes, but we've had a few. We're supposed to. We want to have as few as possible, but we'll make sure each council member has the obligation to make sure they bring the best representation to their district and the city. We've gotta keep going. If the ball's on the ground, if somebody fumbles it, we gotta pick it up and score.