My name is Mary Kelleher and I am running for a seat on the Board of the Tarrant Regional Water District. I hadn’t been involved in local politics until 2010 when my farm located on the east side of Fort Worth was devastated by flooding after the Water District released water from area lakes upstream into the river with blatant disregard for the property owners downstream. Livestock drowned and farm equipment was destroyed. My world changed forever on that day.
I sought help from local government and was disappointed to discover our government was more concerned about development than citizens. I became active in local politics as a result and was blessed to be elected to the Board of the Water District in 2013. I proudly served the people on the Water District from 2013 to 2017 and personally observed nepotism and conflict of interest in that agency. I believe all of us have heard and read about the Water District’s Panther Island boondoggle, masterminded by Congresswoman Kay Granger and whose son JD Granger was gifted the job of directing the project despite having no experience in such matters.
The primary missions of the Water District are flood control, water supply, and recreation and the Water District is deviating from these missions. While on the Board, I asked questions other board members wouldn’t and voted my conscience even when it wasn’t the popular thing to do. My experience on the Board wasn’t always pleasant; the general manager of the Water District hired a special attorney who unsuccessfully tried to keep me out of executive session and prevent me from getting records I requested. I was even censured by my fellow board members for publicly speaking out about unethical business practices, for which I am proud and would not hesitate to do again.
Water, whether it be too much or too little, is too powerful and precious not to be respected and taken very seriously. While the staff at the Water District has done an exceptional job of providing flood control, water supply, and recreational activities such as our beautiful bike trails and parks, the Water District management and current board members have strayed from their primary functions by delving into a massive economic development project they attempted to sell to the federal government as flood control. Recently, however, the federal government realized the Panther Island project was not about flood control and put a stop to any more federal money. Meanwhile, Fort Worth citizens are exposed to nightmarish flood risks and the cost of the Panther Island project has escalated to over a billion dollars. The taxpayers never voted for the Panther Island project and should not be on the hook for the cost of this boondoggle.
When elected to the Board of the Water District on May 4th, I will fight to bring transparency and fiscal responsibility to the Water District and return their focus to flood control, water supply, and recreation.