North Texas' 10 Toughest Jobs

Last week, less than two years after taking the gig, the city of Dallas' "bike czar" Ashley Haire abdicated her throne in favor of working on bike and pedestrian design projects for a Denver consulting firm. Haire's job with the city was so tough as to be nearly impossible. A year before she hit North Texas, Dallas was ranked as the worst city in the United States for cyclists. The city has wide roads with high-speed limits, even in its densest areas, making traversing the city on a bike treacherous. Finding the political will to build bike lanes protected by anything more than paint stripes has been slow going — City Council members Sandy Greyson and Mark Clayton have repeatedly pointed out that shared lanes are aggravating and not a safe solutions for bikers or vehicle traffic. The city's only bike share program is confined to Fair Park. Dallas is a city that was built for, and is still most easily navigated with, a car. Perhaps Haire's replacement will have a slightly easier task as the city glacially gets in line with the best practices of more bike-friendly cities, but he or she will still be backed by limited resources and in for a tremendous amount of institutional pushback. In honor of Haire's departure, here's a look at nine more of the toughest gigs in town. (It's worth saying that a lot of jobs, like, say, digging ditches, are harder than any of these. This list comprises gigs that are uniquely tough here, for whatever reason.)

Dallas Cowboys Head Coach
Since Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989, the team has had one — maybe one and a half if you count Barry Switzer — coach who could be deemed moderately successful. It's no coincidence that Jimmy Johnson, who won Super Bowls after the 1992 and 1993 seasons and handed Switzer the personnel to win the 1995 championship, was also one of the only Cowboys coaches of the Jones era — Bill Parcells, briefly, enjoyed the same freedom — to be handed total control of player personnel. Managing the moving parts necessary to build a winner in the salary cap era requires consistent, borderline-maniacal focus. That's impossible to maintain while being forced to kowtow to Jones and constantly deflect the crazy things the owner does and says. 

City Hall Chief Wellness Officer
Not only does the city of Dallas have the highest rate of overweight or obese employees of any entity that gets its insurance from United Healthcare, until a recent contract rejection, City Council offices were being stocked with hundreds of cases of free Dr Pepper products. Last year, Forest Turner — who was an assistant city manager under Mary Suhm — was handed the newly created chief wellness officer gig to a bit of fanfare. In the time since, besides a very public jog with then-councilmember Dwaine Caraway at the Cotton Bowl, Turner has not gotten much done. City Manager A.C. Gonzalez called the city's obesity reduction efforts unsatisfactory and council members accused the city of not even doing simple stuff, like getting rid of soda and unhealthy snacks from City Hall. Gonzalez has said that changes with regard to what the city does to keep employees healthy are coming once the new city budget goes into effect, which doesn't sound good for Turner.  
Reasonable Irving City Council Member
Before Ahmed the clock kid sent Irving and the rest of DFW into a tizzy, frequent Glenn Beck guest and Mayor Beth Van Duyne had already focused nationwide attention on her inner-ring suburb when she chose to get her constituents all riled up about the possibility of a Sharia-law "court" setting up shop in Irving. Imams at the Islamic Center of Irving were helping people negotiate disputes using the principles of their shared faith, and Van Duyne was having none of it. She insisted that Irving City Council endorse an anti-Sharia bill making its way through the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature and, in a 5-4 vote in March, the council did. Dissenting voices on the council seemed absolutely befuddled by what Van Duyne was trying to accomplish.

“It is clear by the way this has developed that you feel threatened by it,” council member John Danish said before the vote. “You, my neighbor, you, my fellow American, feel threatened by it and that is not right.”
John Wiley Price Campaign Volunteer
John Wiley Price, somehow, is still running for office. There's a non-zero, some might even call it good, chance that he'll retain his Dallas County Commissioner's Court District 3 seat in the upcoming 2016 election. Still, it's hard to imagine how you'd pitch him to voters. He's under federal indictment, faced with a mountain of evidence and flipping alleged co-conspirators. If he's convicted, he'll be removed from a position he wields with a lot less authority than he used to, and he's facing a real, serious challenge from popular former City Council member Dwaine Caraway.

Price, for better or worse, is a shell of his former self — the only argument for voting for him is that he's had the job for a long time.
DMN Opinion Page Editor
Currently held by Keven Ann Willey, The Dallas Morning News opinion page editing job has got to be maddening. Over the last couple of weeks, Willey's had to navigate Sharon Grigsby calling the suicide of Patti Stevens selfish, and UNT's journalism dean, Dorothy Bland, starting a battle with the Corinth police department and most of the Internet with a column in which the dean claimed she was stopped for "walking while black." Willey describes the job as "herding opinionated cats," and those cats have seemed more ornery than usual lately.

Dallas ISD Superintendent
Dallas ISD superintendents simply do not last. They come in, like the recently departed Mike Miles, like a house on fire, dead set on doing the downtrodden urban district reclamation project of which they've always dreamed. Then the teachers unions get pissed, Joyce Foreman starts preaching her particular brand of weirdness at school board meetings and the palace intrigue becomes too much to take. New superintendent Michael Hinojosa has done the job before, and actually managed to hang on long enough to see kids who were freshman when he took the job in 2005 graduate before he left to head to suburban Atlanta in 2011, so maybe he has a chance. We'll be withholding judgement until the honeymoon period's over, though.
Dallas County Commissioner District 2
The second seat on the Dallas County Commissioner's Court is the sole chair occupied by a Republican, a fact that so pisses off Dallas County conservatives that they sued the county for violating the voting rights of white people in January. The suit claimed that by concentrating the county's white population in District 2, the county had diminished whites' voting rights by almost guaranteeing that Democrats would hold the majority of seats on the court.

The suit didn't go anywhere, but watching District 2 Commissioner Mike Cantrell's lonely existence is almost enough to make you feel for the guy. Last week, he was the sole dissenting voice against the county's endorsement of Planned Parenthood. Last year, he couldn't even get a second to his motions to take action against Price or former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins after news broke of Watkins' secret settlement for causing a traffic accident. 

Yellow Cab Driver
For years, drivers for Dallas' Yellow Cab didn't exactly have things great, but they did have it easy. Their company had a virtual monopoly on Dallas' transportation-for-hire market, and they could count on collecting Dallas' exorbitant mandated fares from those poor wanderers stuck in the city without a car. Now, despite a valiant attempt by Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez to preserve Yellow Cab's hegemony, Uber and Lyft have cracked the cab company's advantage so badly that cabs are fighting obsolescence rather than for fares. Drivers who have switched to Uber, and there are quite a few, are faced with picking up fares at much lower per-mile rates from customers much less likely to tip.
Downtown 7-Eleven Clerk
Over the summer, downtown Dallas' plethora of 7-Elevens became the focal point of a battle between the city's homeless — who end up in downtown because of the location of The Bridge homeless shelter and the area being DART's nexus — and the central business district's growing residential population. Armed with cameras, residents have begun filming and reporting aggressive panhandling, which is often focused at the 7-Eleven locations. The downtown locations have repeated problems with loitering and theft, and employees often seem to just be worn out.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young