DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
At 24, Asa Woodberry may be the youngest person running for Dallas City Council out of 52 candidates vying for the 14 positions. But age isn’t an indication of ability or motivation.
Woodberry, running in District 4, is also one of five out candidates running for a seat at the horseshoe.
Incumbent District 4 Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold tried to demean his experience at a recent candidate forum, but Woodberry got the best of her: “Experience hasn’t fixed our roads,” he said. “Experience hasn’t cleaned up our parks. And experience hasn’t raised our minimum wage.”
To be clear, Woodberry respects experience. But he also believes there’s more to being a good councilmember.
“Experience matters,” Woodberry said. “But everybody has a first day at work. I’m willing to learn.”
And others seem to believe he’ll do just that. The Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance gave Woodberry its endorsement. Three of the five candidates applied for the DGLA endorsement, but incumbent Arnold wasn’t one of them. She also didn’t seek the backing of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
Woodberry graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in political science and a minor in finance. He received his master’s degree in urban regional planning with a concentration in housing and community development.His Masters project looked at ways the issue of homeless veterans has been approached in other cities and how those ideas could be used in Dallas.
Woodberry said he believes in the possibility of reducing or even ending homelessness in the city so much, he had an appointment with his councilman to fill his district’s seat on the city’s task force on homelessness. But that appointment was with former Councilman Dwaine Caraway, who resigned just two days later after being charged in a felony bribery case. Last week Caraway was sentenced to 56 months in prison on bribery charges.
Woodberry jumped into the race after working on a legislative campaign last fall after Caraway’s resignation.
“I’ve always been interested in government and politics on all levels,” Woodberry said, adding that he’d heard that millennials and young people are now the biggest voting block. “We care, and we’re engaged,” he said.
Last year, he got involved in Rep. Rhetta Bowers’ campaign for the Texas Legislature. Her district runs through eastern Dallas County and includes parts of Mesquite and Garland. Bowers replaced Republican Cindy Burkett who ran for a state Senate seat.
Woodberry described Bowers as a working mom who didn’t have money going into her first campaign for public office. So instead, she knocked on doors and relied on volunteers to get her name out there.
“She is my role model,” Woodberry said.
He listened to people in his district — the way he saw Bowers listen to people in hers — to decide which issues were important for him to focus on in the council race. The top issue in his district, he said, is infrastructure — roads, sidewalks, alleys, lighting and replacing falling, broken or unreadable signs. But loose dogs are also a major problem across southern Dallas, he added, noting he has “personally been attacked by a loose pit bull.”
And, Woodberry said, parks in his district are dirty and overrun with trash and debris. Lots of older and retired people live in the district, and he’d like to see the parks in the area upgraded so grandparents would have a place to take their grandchildren.
“Most of the parks in our district don’t even have restroom facilities,” he added.
Parts of the district are food deserts, Woodberry continued, and he’d like to see more grocery stores and restaurants opening there.
There’s plenty of fast-food-fried-fish-and-burger places, he said, but nowhere to get a healthy meal.
Lancaster Road runs through the heart of the district. While Wynnewood Village, a little to the north of District 4, is getting a redo,
Woodberry would like to see the four corners of shopping centers at Kiest Boulevard receive the same upgrade. He said people don’t always feel safe in that area now.
Despite some political wrangling about Woodberry’s experience, he said the campaign has been quite cordial.
Eleven candidates ran in a special election to replace Caraway last year, and when the election was over, they did something unusual: Most of them went out to dinner together. The ones who didn’t join were out of town or had another commitment.
Woodberry said the four challengers to Arnold have been just as cordial. At candidate forums, they arrive early and chat. During forums, they’re more likely to make jokes than to truly criticize each other.
While block walking, Woodberry knocked on a door, and then realized it belonged to opponent Dawn Blair’s mom. While he didn’t get her vote, he said, they chatted for about 15 minutes.
Keyaira D. Saunders, another of his opponents, has given him fundraising advice. She is running for the third time, but she offered him ideas on what worked for her during her first run for office.
One day, Woodberry said, he was knocking on doors on one side of the street, and Saunders was knocking on doors on the other side. At some point, they stopped in the middle of the street to chat.
So Woodberry isn’t worried about his district finding good representation. But he believes his ideas will steer District 4 in the right direction.
He noted that a Walmart store recently opened in the area.
“They don’t pay a living wage,” he said, adding that low wages force people to take second and even third jobs just to make ends meet.
He said he’d rather attract fewer but higher-paying jobs to the district instead of a lot of jobs that ensure people can’t take care of their families.
“DeSoto just passed paid parental leave,” he said, noting the new ordinance that passed in that city last week, the first city in North Texas to do so. He said that once elected to the Dallas City Council, he’d like to explore the possibility of that in Dallas.