Fort Worth voters will have more than one mayoral candidate on the ballot this year for the first time since 2011.
Christopher Nettles, 29, an administrative county clerk for Tarrant county and a local minister at Purpose Driven Ministries, is running for mayor against incumbent Mayor Betsy Price. Nettles began Purpose Driven Ministries in 2010 which also operates as a full-time, licensed child care center.
“Some people ask me why I decided to run for mayor and I just say that it already feels like I have been working for the community,” Nettles said. “So I want to take it to a higher level and be a voice for everyone.”
— Chris Nettles (@Nettles4Mayor) February 5, 2017
Though Nettles has never held a position on City Council, his mother, Kathy Rockwell, said he has always been motivated to drive change in his community.
“He loves people,” Rockwell said. “He’s just the kind of man that wants to help the people, the community and make the city better than what it is.”
At North Crowley High School, he was elected Junior class president and served as president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), but his history of service dates back to eight-years-old – when Nettles first began preaching at his local church.
Alongside his two full-time jobs, he is a husband and father to four children.
Growing up in Fort Worth, Nettles said he has seen his neighborhood and others neglected in recent years.
Brandon Rogers, a transition specialist at Fort Worth Independent School District, is Nettles’ campaign manager and said he also has seen Fort Worth communities overlooked by local government.
“Certain areas of this city have been seeing improvement and certain areas have not,” Rogers said. “Our message would be, to make every area of this city important.”
According to his website, Nettles’ campaign focuses on three primary issues: “promoting literacy, decreasing homelessness, and mending police-community relations”
He also hopes to improve infrastructure in neglected areas of Fort Worth, specifically on the east side.
“I believe that Betsy Price has focused more of her attention to 7th Street and the north side,” Nettles said. “There were plans developed in 2007 to develop all the urban areas of the city and they have not done anything with those developments yet. So I want to take those plans and bring them to pass.”
Among his primary issues, homelessness and poverty in Fort Worth are among concerns acknowledged by both candidates.
“When it comes to poverty, unfortunately, Fort Worth is higher than both the U.S. and Texas average,” Price said on her website addressing the state of the city last month. “This is not just a government issue, it is not a partisan issue—it is a community issue that all of us should be concerned about and working to address together.”
Rogers however, raises the question to whether the current administration is invested in making changes.
“Over the last six years we haven’t seen a change — actually we have seen a change, for the worst,” Rogers said. “The homelessness has increased by over ten percent since she has been in office. We just need to find a plan and work to get the homelessness rates down.”
Nettles said he intends to reach millennial voters by initiating a grassroots effort. He said he plans to knock on doors and host town halls.
“We are going to go into the communities that are normally not hit to focus on a database of registered voters and non-registered voters,” Nettles said.
The strategy was designed after a recent discovery from voter turnout in the past mayoral elections.
“We noticed a big gap. For the young voters, between 18-35, the voter turnout was like 1 percent,” said Rogers.
Not only was millennial turnout low, but according to a recent study from Portland State University, Fort Worth had an overall voter turnout of 6.48 percent in the last mayoral election.
According to City of Fort Worth website, 14,933 votes were cast in the last general election in May of 2015.
Nettles said that his experience allows him to understand the community needs and what it takes to make a difference.
“It is your job as city council and mayor to provide budgets and make sure the city has what it needs,” Nettles said. “I know what it means to be a citizen and I know what it means to have relationships with people.”
However, his message is also a call to action for the residents of Fort Worth.
“It is time to get involved,” Nettles said. “We have seen a lot of arguing and complaining, people are upset but the real change happens within you so I want to encourage everybody to get involved in local politics”
Early voting begins April 24th and the election will be on May 6th. Find out who all will be on your ballot here.