DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – With a little more than a month left in office, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings made it clear his two terms didn’t just fly by.
“I can believe it’s eight years. I’ve felt every little wrinkle that’s in there, every city council meeting. It’s been such an honor, Dallas is a great, great city but it’s a hard job,” he said.
Mayor Rawlings said what has sometimes made his job hard is leading city council meetings that he described as showing stress fractures.
“Too many council people are saying my ideas are more important, are better, or I need to speak louder about that and I think we’re better when we come together and we’ve done that on many issues.”
The Mayor said he hopes the new council will become more united than it is now. “I thought a lot of good people were elected, are feeling good about the council going forward. A few of the folks have runoffs and we’ll see what happens there.”
He was particularly pleased that District 13 Council Member Jennifer Staubach Gates won re-election against former Mayor Laura Miller, who sought to return to City Hall. “That shows me people are very positive and people want to work with people that they like and people love Jennifer.”
But the Mayor said he is not ready yet to announce whether he will endorse Democratic State Representative Eric Johnson or veteran Council Member Scott Griggs to succeed him.
Rawlings said, “The last couple of days I’ve been thinking about it, talking to different people and getting some thoughts on it. I think there are some clear choices there and the big narrative that I think people need to be thinking about: is Dallas going in the right direction or the wrong direction? I think that’s the question people are going to be asking themselves.”
Griggs has said the city has enough flashy projects and that he wants to focus on the basics such as the city’s first responders, parks, and streets.
While Johnson wants to balance public safety, improving neighborhoods, and the big projects as well.
The Mayor said, “I think Mr. Griggs feels we made a lot of mistakes over the years and he wants to do some things significantly different. He’s espoused that in his campaign. Mr. Johnson, where I haven’t talked to him in detail, talks about the growth we’re on, the momentum we’ve got, and wanting to continue that momentum.”
Rawlings has become the city’s longest serving mayor in 58 years.
He was elected in 2011 and four years later, voters decided to give him a second and final term.
During his eight years, he’s had to guide the city through some of its darkest days in history while under the stark glare of the national spotlight.
He helped the nation commemorate the 50th anniversary of the JFK Assassination.
“The JFK speech I worked on nine months before it. I kind-of write some things out, I work with other people to craft ideas, I’ve got a great speech writer in my office to help me get those thoughts. What people want to hear is authenticity. They don’t want you to hide the pain. This city has been through a lot of pain because of JFK. But they also believe in redemption. They want hope that we can actually get there and they want to believe that.”
The Mayor had to bring the city together again after the deadly police shootings in downtown Dallas July 7, 2016. “I saw that everybody was hurt by 7/7: police, civil rights leaders, regular citizens, the clergy. Everybody was in pain and we needed to have a communal hug. Somebody needed to give us permission to put our arms around each other and give ourselves a big hug. That’s my role or I felt that was my role as Mayor.”
There were some tough battles as well, including a very contentious one against the city’s police and fire associations over how to save their pension fund that was going broke.
He acknowledged he made some tough statements about the associations. “I did and I thought carefully before I decided to say tough things because we were headed in the wrong direction at the legislature.”
In the end, both the State Senate and House passed legislation to rescue the Police and Fire Pension Fund.
“Let me be clear: I’m so proud of our police and fire in this city. The rank and file members put their lives on the line and they’ve given their lives and they’ve done a remarkable job. That’s different than a negotiation that’s financial to save the retirement for future generations.”
When asked about regrets, the Mayor pointed to his campaign to end domestic violence.
“I continue to be heart-broken how many women are being killed through domestic violence. It’s an issue near and dear to my heart as you know and we’ve made a lot of progress. We’re getting more people calling now. They feel free, they can interact. But still, those homicides out there that you’ll report on from time to time, it just breaks my heart. I wish I had done more there.”
The Mayor said it was too difficult for him to say what his proudest accomplishments are, but pointed to Saturday’s election. “I was proud this weekend to see how some of those votes were coming together. The city was starting to heal again and the people who were getting elected were people I knew were there for the right reasons, that they weren’t there to poke each other in the eye, but come together.”
Rawlings said he takes pride in the city’s most recent survey of residents released last year.
It showed 72% of those asked rated Dallas’ quality of life as either excellent or good.
Records show in 2011, the Mayor’s first year in office, 67% of those surveyed rated the city’s quality of life as either excellent or good. “Citizens have never been happier in this city than in history. Their quality of life is higher than its ever been and it continues to grow vs. other cities.”
After a new Mayor is sworn in June 17, Rawlings said he has three trips planned and that he will be focusing on being “zen.”
FULL INTERVIEW WITH MAYOR MIKE RAWLINGS