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Health Forces Reform-Minded Lake Dallas Mayor From Office

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Julie Mathews seemed to have won the battle against the city council when they removed her shortly after she won an election to the Lake Dallas city council in early 2015. She maxed out her credit cards, depleted her savings account, and won a mayoral election.   

But just four months after Mathews won her election, she’s resigning her position. The City Council quietly accepted her resignation on July 28.

Council member Megan Ray told the Denton Record-Chronicle on Aug. 3 that Mathews leaving took her and her colleagues by surprise. “She has not really stated her reasons,” Ray said. “Nobody knows.”

The Observer reached out to Mathews on Thursday.  “My body can no longer cash the stressful checks my brain is writing,” Mathews said in an email.

She said she’s developed pulmonary hypertension, and her body isn’t responding to drug therapy. The doctor asked her about possible stressors, and she said she told him, “Well, you see this place where we live. …”

The small town where she lives is also a political battleground.  Mathews entered public life with a Facebook page called “Citizen Chapman.”  Her targets were former Mayor Tony Marino and Police Chief/former City Manager Nick Ristagno, who now serves as interim city manager. She pointed out Ristagno, for example, was in violation of state law serving as his own boss since the city manager hires and fires the police chief in Lake Dallas. She posted a 911 call related to the former mayor with a weapon in hand at a country club. She also created caricatures of the city manager/police chief with the body of a baby in diapers and of the former mayor with the body of a rat.

In early 2015, she decided to run under the banner of “Citizens for Change” with two other people seeking council. They won their election in May 2015. But shortly after Mathews took her oath of office, Marino and council members including Mathews' former running mates voted to remove her from office.

“Mrs. Mathews has, for a period of nearly two years, waged personal and malicious attacks on members of the Lake Dallas government and its administration that were nothing more than calculated lies intended to turn public sentiment against the City in order to aid her bid for an elected office,” former Mayor Pro Tem Mike McCaleb said after the removal.

"It was a witch hunt,” Mathews put it.

She decided to run for mayor early this year. Mathews and a mostly-new city council worked cohesively together, she says, and found an experienced city manager to run the city in Matthew Shaffstall, the former city administrator of a small community in Hood County.

“There is no sexy reason why I've had to step-back from politics,” Mathews said. “I love the Lake Dallas community and the seeds of progress have been planted, but I have to remove stressors where possible if I hope to enjoy a healthy life."

Mathews’ former running mate Mayor Pro Tem Andi Nolan will be taking over until council can determine when to hold a special election to replace Mathews. 

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