By Jack Fink

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The two candidates who want to become Fort Worth’s next Mayor discussed their policy differences Wednesday.

Former Tarrant County Democratic Party Chair Deborah Peoples and Mattie Parker, a former Chief of Staff for Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and the city council, took part in a forum sponsored by the three main Chambers of Commerce in the city and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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Parker and Peoples are in the runoff after emerging May 1 as the top two candidates from a field of ten.

Price is retiring after ten years, making her the city’s longest-serving Mayor.

Peoples and Parker disagreed when asked what they believed is the best way to help African-American owned businesses in the city.

Peoples said, “It doesn’t take a study. Mattie was at City Hall for five years. Dee Jennings has been raising the clarion call for over 40 years and he’s been ignored. We have to listen to people in this city to make these things work.”

Parker said, “I do think that in Fort Worth sometimes we struggle when the gun goes off at the proverbial starting line, you’re in the starting blocks. There are other cities that take off and run and Fort Worth turns around and looks at each other and says what are we going to do now. It is go-time in Fort Worth, and Deborah, I disagree with you, we have to look outside to see what other cities are doing successfully.”

Both Peoples and Parker agreed that the city needs to do a better job of marketing itself to attract new businesses.

They were also asked how they would improve some of the city’s neighborhoods.

Parker said, “In District 5 right now, 82% of kids are living in “D” and “F” schools. Compare that to District 7, where 0% of our students are in a “D” and “F” school. That’s where you focus. I’d love to see double money go into that program every single year. And maybe it will be more when the next round of CARES Act dollars comes to Fort Worth, Texas.”

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Peoples said, “My plan is to look at those specific under-utilized neighborhoods and focus on them. You won’t hear me spouting statistics. You’re going to see me hands-on in the community working with the Black Chamber, the Hispanic Chamber, the Asian-American Chamber to make sure we’re providing those opportunities.”

Neither candidate has held a publicly elected position before, and each was asked about that and how they would convince voters they’re prepared for the job.

Peoples said, “I don’t come to this job without experience, leading large groups, creating plans and implementing them, and getting success. So Ryan, I’m ready day one to lead this job.”

Parker said, “For 17 years, I’ve worked behind the scenes. Running for office is not something I anticipated doing. The reason I’m here before you today is because this is a critical time for our city and I didn’t find who I wanted to support in elected leadership for the Mayor’s spot, and so I stepped forward and did it.”

Municipal positions such as Fort Worth Mayor are non-partisan.

With both candidates having experience working with the different political parties, both were also asked how they intend to keep partisan politics out of City Hall.

Parker said, “You need a Mayor who’s going to put politics aside and really focus. I’ve been very vocal, I have worked for Republicans over my career but I’ve been focused on what citizens need, whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, you’re here as an immigrant, you’re here as a citizen, it did not matter to me.”

Peoples said, “Everyone knows that I’m a Democrat, but I’m a Fort Worthian first. Anybody who knows about my more than 30-year career with AT&T knows that I know how to get things done because I believe people care about issues.”

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The runoff election will be held June 5.