Sitting behind her beauty bar in downtown Denton, Amanda Dawn Servis now understands why Hunter S. Thompson often called the political arena a pit of vipers. Since the 32-year-old Denton native announced her candidacy for the District 4 City Council seat a few months ago, she's been attacked for her tattoos, the way she dresses and the way she wears her hair — sometimes pink, green or red.
“It hurts my heart,” she says on a Wednesday afternoon in late April. “I'm strong enough to deal with it, but I totally understand why people don't want to get involved. It's awful how they treat people who want to help.”
A few days ago, an article about her family's eviction and their battle with their landlord in Justice of the Peace Joe Holland's court appeared in the local newspaper. The landlord claimed they were behind on rent. Servis' family said they were paid up and that he violated their lease agreement when he wouldn't make repairs. Holland ruled in the landlord's favor. In Texas, you can't withhold rent because a landlord won't make a repair.
Servis' critics have been attacking her on social media as if she were a punk-rock version of Hillary Clinton and her opponent John Ryan, a former council member of District 2, were a less ethically challenged version of Donald Trump. They pointed out a driving while license invalid charge she received when she was 19 and shared a campy rap video she created two years ago with her husband, Micah Frank, called “Bombshell.” In it, she dresses provocatively and drops lines like, “My anus smells like carnations.”
Servis claims the video was in response to another campy video she released called, “I'm so Denton.” It had gone viral, but her critics ignored her artistry and focused on her as a person, accusing her of “buying her likes” on her video, discussing her sexual history and insulting the way she looks. “'Bombshell' was a response to taking my power back,” she says. “Like if you're going to make fun of me, here is this.”
Facebook and Reddit threads paint her as someone who is far too outspoken — to the point of making a scene in public places — who is hard to handle when she drinks too much and who is basically a hot mess not fit for public office. “Seriously, do we really want someone like this making crucial decisions for our city?” posted one of her critics, who shared Servis' video. “Obviously she has done a fantastic job with her own personal endeavors.”
Servis' opponent hasn't experienced the same personal attacks, though someone did post a video of a man kicking a puppy on a Wordpress site and claimed it was him. But Ryan has decided to take the high road and not attack his opponent. “I've always believed that campaigns should be run on issues, and if there are other things to consider, let the voter decide whether that leans them toward one direction or the other,” he says.
“I never said I wasn't a lot of fun,” Servis says. “I've always been really outspoken, eccentric and eclectic. I've always been different. It's OK, but for a town that promotes how artistic it is, and how liberal, in quotations, it is, yet we have Confederate soldier statue [in front of the Courthouse-on-the-Square], and people are freaking out that I have a rap video.”
She would seem like the perfect candidate for Denton, a city known for its creatives in art, music and writing. But others disagree. They don't think she's capable or stable enough to handle a $1.185 billion annual budget and the complexities of a growing city in a county with an exploding population. They point out that she doesn't even understand how municipal government works, nor does she know the difference between a general law and home-ruled city.
More than a few whispers claim she's part of a nefarious group of alt-left supporters working behind the scenes to hijack the council as they tried to do when they attempted and failed to recall City Council member Joey Hawkins in District 4 in 2016 after several residents complained that he wasn't responding to their messages.
“Change is really scary for people,” Servis says. “Someone like me who has built everything on their own and been through hell and back, and my heart is in the right place, and I speak from my heart and go harder and be stronger. I am way stronger than when I started all of this, and a lot more political in my demeanor and how I act in public. I'm more aware of what's going on and what issues need addressing and what parts of Denton really need some help. There are a lot of parts of Denton that have been forgotten, and they're not talked about, and it's unacceptable.”
Servis is a reflection of her grandmother, Pat Cheek, who ran for council 40 years ago and lost to a businessman. She's outspoken like her grandmother and hopes to be a leader like Cheeks, who Servis says was active in the civil rights movement in the '60s.
Servis opened Lucky Locks Beauty Bar about two years ago. They employ four hair stylists, a lash and microblading specialist, one salon assistant and one personal assistant. She also sells their own line of hair extensions: Lucky Locks Hair Extensions. But it doesn't feel like a beauty shop. It feels like a place where you could chill with a group of close friends and talk politics. “It's like having coffee with your grandma,” she says. “It's laid-back here.”
Servis, who is also the singer in Frankie Maxx and The Two Tones, used to be a pinup model as part of the Tattooed Hippie Pirate Mommas, a social group of tattooed moms. She appeared as Ms. August in the pirate mommas' 2014 calendar to raise money for Children Advocacy Group, but the organization denied their donation. She got kicked out of the group for using it to market her hairstylist work, and she formed the Unicorn Moms of Denton, a social media group that makes play dates.
She says the idea to run for council began to form when she realized her former boss Greg Johnson had been elected to council. She'd worked as an office coordinator and makeup artist at Johnson's Derma Care Clinic, a skin care clinic in Valley Ranch and Frisco, until he fired her. “I couldn't believe it,” she says and offers a few other choice words. “I’m like, 'Well, if he’s up there....' I started to pay attention to people voting and local politics.”
At the multiple council candidate forums held around Denton, Servis claimed one of her primary campaign issues includes lowering the voting age to 16. She figures it would be a good way to get young people involved. It would also requiring changing the Texas Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.
Along with District 1 City Council Candidate Emily White, a community college English professor, Servis outlined a plan the council could take to provide laws and services for people who identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian or transgender. The idea was presented after the Municipal Equality Index, which is published annually by the Human Rights Campaign, found that the city of Denton was lacking when it comes to the LGBTQ community, according to a March 27 report in the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Amber Briggle, a mother who's been advocating for her transgender son, created the steps for the city to take, including more diversity training for the police and more readily available resources for the LGBTQ community, and presented them at Stoke's Big Ideas forum in late March.
Servis says, if elected to the District 4 seat, she also plans to start a creative union for Denton creatives to get them fair pay from local businesses and organizations who often use their services. “They need protection,” she says. “They need mentors to guide them through that.”
Servis had to shut down her Facebook page for a few days because the personal attacks had gotten worse. She reactivated it on April 27 and posted, “Running for office is kind of like dating. Except my suitor is Denton, and Denton is an unstable, emotionally angsty, abusive boyfriend who gaslights me about my mistreatment and romances me when I try to leave.”
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Sitting behind Lucky Locks Beauty Bar, Servis discusses a homeless man who had taken up residence in a tent in an empty lot not far from where we sit. She says she had to call the police on him on several occasions because he was threatening her clients and hairdressers with misogynistic terms like “bitch, cunt and slut,” and waving a knife at them. It took City Council member Kevin Roden's involvement, she says, to get the homeless man picked up and locked up by police.
“I just felt like women don’t have a voice down here,” she says. “I'm different. I'm unorthodox. I kind of march to the beat of my own drum. All the things that people making fun of me when I grow up .... Just because I am different and outspoken, I am very fair.”
Servis has begun identifying some of her critics. Some turned out to be friends of her mother's and grandmother's, and others turned out to be her friends. She reiterates that she has a servant's heart and discusses her philanthropy like doing makeovers for victims of domestic violence seeking shelter at a local nonprofit. Though her critics claim she doesn't know much about government code, Servis says she is able to read and understand legal documents because she studied criminal justice before she left North Central Texas College in Corinth to become a hair stylist and makeup artist and a small business owner.
With the May 6 polls quickly approaching, Servis calls what she's experiencing from people who don't like the way she looks or acts “polidickin'” and offers her hope for young people who may not be plugged into local politics. “At the very least, I just want to inspire people to get involved,” she says. “Like I say all the time, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’”