Just minutes before presiding over his first meeting as the city's newly minted mayor, Dwaine Caraway assured a group of around 150 folks gathered for a light breakfast in the Flag Room at City Hall that he'd continue the "positive direction of the city" during his four months in office.
"There's no need for folks to think that we're about to really flip the script and go tear up Main Street and put a river down there," he said while flanked by his wife, state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway; nine former city council members; and nine of his current council colleagues.
"That is a good idea, though," he said as everyone chuckled.
Caraway took a backhanded swipe at Tom Leppert, with whom Caraway disagreed on the Love Field Airport concessions contracts and wet-dry referendum, promising there would be a change beginning at this morning's council briefing.
"Not a change in the city from what we used to do, but we're calling a new play," he said. "The new play is working together. The new play is 44 to the left, and when we call that play, it means we're gonna score some touchdowns."
Ron Natinsky's mayoral campaign treasurer and State Fair of Texas chair Pete Schenkel (referenced by Caraway as "Pete Shingles") began the event with a football analogy of his own, comparing Caraway's new role with the captain of a football team.
"Mayor Dwaine Caraway has got all of the ingredients to lead this city," he said. "He'll be a fine mayor. He'll be a great mayor. And he'll be a fine team captain for all of us in Dallas."
Former council members on hand to support Caraway included Lois Finkelman, Donna Halstead, Craig Holcomb, Al Lipscomb, Ed Oakley, Mary Poss, Diane Ragsdale, Bob Stimson and Alan Walne. Steve Salazar arrived late as nine of current council members lined up next to Caraway, with Vonciel Jones Hill, Ann Margolin and Pauline Medrano absent.
The crowd was an eclectic mix composed of community activists Marvin Crenshaw and Roy Williams, political consultants Carol Reed and Willis Johnson, Downtown Dallas CEO John Crawford, mayoral candidate Mike Rawlings, developer Jack Matthews, Trinity Trust Foundation CEO Gail Thomas, Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons and several city staffers.
Caraway stressed the event wasn't about him. It was about the city. He acknowledged Dallas is facing tough times and urged everyone in the room to work together.
"There will be critics, but that's OK," he said. "We'll let them spend their time criticizing while we are working together to move this city forward in a positive direction."
Caraway missed his opportunity to call his first meeting as mayor to order, as he was absent when Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Medrano did so at 9:02 a.m. He arrived shortly afterward.
Poss, who replaced former Mayor Ron Kirk when he resigned for a U.S. Senate run of his own, tells Unfair Park that her transition from mayor pro tem to mayor was "a blur."
"I was functioning as a council member, a mayor pro tem and as acting mayor," she says. "It was around-the-clock work for five months to make sure most things got done."
Stamina is Caraway's biggest challenge, Poss says, claiming she worked from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the week, even as mayor pro tem.
"The main thing you have to do is prioritize -- understand what the really important issues are to everybody and stay focused on those issues," she says. "This is not the time to start a whole bunch of new projects or try to tick off a number of new ideas. This is the time to finish the existing work on the table and help your colleagues in every way possible."
And since Caraway brings some baggage with him into office, we asked Poss what prompted her to attend this morning's event.
"All of us former council members are here today, and we're here in support of Dwaine, all of the council and making sure our city's moving forward," she says.
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