FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – He made national headlines in 2010 after delivering a passionate speech about bullying during a Fort Worth City Council meeting. And on Tuesday night, councilman Joel Burns gave another tear-filled speech, announcing that he would be stepping down to pursue a new opportunity.
The resignation came as a surprise to many. Burns was elected to the council in 2007 and began work the following year, representing District 9 as the first openly gay elected official to hold office in Tarrant County.
But it was a few years later that Burns would have his most memorable moment. His personal story about being gay and bullied since an early age, delivered in front of his peers at a city council meeting, garnered attention from around the world. The clip has been seen millions of times on YouTube, and helped a generation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens know that “it gets better.”
After the video spread online, the Fort Worth councilman became a face against bullying, especially in the DFW area. He even visited President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. to talk about his experiences at a special conference for young people.
Burns is stepping down in order to attend a Harvard University graduate school program focused on public administration. While the 11-month program does not begin until this summer, Burns decided to announce his plans earlier so “the people of my council district can begin the process of choosing their next council member.”
Burns will continue to serve Fort Worth until his successor is elected in May.
“It is an amazing honor and incredible opportunity I never thought possible,” Burns added in a released statement. “And I was excited to accept Harvard’s invitation last week. But it’s a bittersweet moment, because participating in this program means choosing to step out of my seat here on the City Council and say good-bye to a life-changing experience I never could have imagined.”
“His passion for his district and his passion for Fort Worth brought a dimension to the council with all that is in his heart that is hard to replace,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price in a statement issued after the announcement.
But, during his tearful resignation speech on Tuesday, Burns said that he does plan to return in the future, to tackle some important issues which still plague Fort Worth. “We still have some really huge outstanding transportation shortages, in terms of commuter rail, street cars, light rail, other kinds of transportation,” he said, “and we need to spend some time working on that.”
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