Dallas City Council Member Chad West shares his vision, the importance of accessibility, community engagement and creating a sense of place.
Citizenship is a chance to make a difference in the place where you belong.
First a look behind the curtain. I had the chance to see Chad West in action when our technology broke down and his tech-support partner had to switch out his laptop. A half-hour ticked away, and I was getting antsy about having enough time for a meaningful interview.
This breakdown afforded me the gift of eavesdropping on Chad as he continued to work calmly with his assistant in the background, answering a few questions and ultimately delaying his next meeting so that we had enough time for the interview.
Chad had previously shared with me that he is a stickler about keeping commitments. Integrity is high on his list of virtues. I witnessed him walking his talk while also staying kind and generous with employees. This recollection reassures me that we elected the right person for Oak Cliff and for Dallas.
First Impressions and Accessibility
- Accessibility to constituents and clients is important to Chad and is expected for a City Council Member (CM). I experienced that firsthand when he personally answered my call and accepted the podcast interview invitation without a previous introduction.
- To balance his extreme availability, he’s sure to bake downtime into the end of his day for reading or other solitary activities.
Balancing the Whole and Parts
- I wondered about competing commitments between District 1 (D-1, our district) and the City’s vision and goals.
- Unique challenges of D1: we’re one of the oldest neighborhoods in Dallas with the original street grid, old infrastructure and tons of new development.
- Importance of public engagement:
- Neighborhood feedback is very important when trying to encourage developers to include pedestrian & neighborhood-friendly elements in their projects.
- Engagement also poses challenges. People will question Chad, and rightly so. While this creates more work, lack of engagement causes a neighborhood to lose its character.
- Chad is working to build trust in lower-engagement neighborhoods by attending non-city events and getting to know the neighbors so that they, too, are able to influence their future.
- Building relationships and trust with other Council Members is important for moving both the city and individual districts forward.
Holding the Vision + Integrating Thought Leadership
- Oak Cliff is a gem with 100-year-old street-car informed grids and adjacent neighborhoods. Bishop Arts is a great example.
- In the plans: Oak Farms, a mixed-use development with workforce housing, market-rate housing, retail, and plazas.
- Two major streets will be repurposed. The new streetcar between downtown Dallas and North Oak Cliff, pedestrians and bicycles will be routed to one street, with cars on the other. This will improve safety and accessibility.
- D Magazine’s New Urbanism edition included an article by Oak Cliff resident and Urbanism expert, Patrick Kennedy: Bishop Arts Can Be a Model for Southern Dallas Development
- There’s a focus on preserving single-family neighborhoods; once you take them down you can never get them back.
- More trail expansions are in the works, linking people with parks.
- A strong sense of place is being ignited.
Reflections + Resources + Practical Applications
Building Trust & Relationships
- The Trusted Advisor’s Trust Equation is a helpful way to consider trust and the components of trust.
Holding a Long-Term Vision
- Notice the vision for D-1 has been unfolding for 10 – 20 year. We’re challenged to become ‘decaders’.
- How do you and your organization stay committed and aligned to a long-term vision? What rhythms and structures have you created to support this vision?
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