Former Trinity River Water District Board member Mary Kelleher and real estate attorney Gary Moates are running to unseat the establishment at the highly controversial Trinity River Water District Board.

The TRWD has long been associated with secrecy and burning taxpayer money on the Panther Island boondoggle, a tax-funded real estate development project in Fort Worth that has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars with nothing to show for it rather than investing in core services.

Two candidates are trying to change that.

Kelleher has a long history of fighting for citizens during her time on the TWRD board from 2013 to 2017, fighting for both transparency and better water management.

Moates, a real estate attorney, has expressed concern about how taxpayer dollars have been spent by the TRWD, including on Panther Island project. On his website, he voices his commitment to “considering all viable cost-effective options” and refocusing on water treatment services.

Both are vying for two seats on the TRWD board in a race with five candidates, which includes the two incumbents. The top two vote-getters will win, and Kelleher and Moates recently made their case to the Fort Worth Project Tea Party for why they should be the winners.

Kelleher said she has a very personal interest in how the TRWD operates, as her farm and home were devastated due to flooding in 2010, 2012, and twice in 2016.

“I still have nightmares to this day, seeing the sheep go under and not go up,” she said as she recounted some of the horrors she and her husband had to endure during the 180 days their property was flooded the first time.

After her attempts to reach out for help to the Fort Worth City Council and the TRWD proved fruitless, Kelleher ran for a seat on the TRWD board in 2013 and won.

Yet in her efforts to make the TRWD more transparent, Kelleher was censured by the board.

However, she chalked up some significant accomplishments while there: TRWD board meetings are now livestreamed, the Trinity water is now tested weekly, and the board is executing her plan to build underground wells for local water storage.

Now she wants to return to continue the fight for better water management and financial transparency, particularly in regards to Panther Island.

“Over 200 people’s properties have been taken by eminent domain for this project. The propositions that have been passed … we’ve all been kind of hoodwinked,” Kelleher said. “This most recent one was for $250 million. What did it say it was for? Flood control and drainage improvements. Well, if you read the fine print, it was for Panther Island.”

“Mary’s right,” Moates added. “Bonds are not going to be used just for flood control. Bonds proceeds are going to be used to put utilities in the canal in Panther Island projects, not flood control.”

“This thing is mixed up with office building development. It needs to be divided up,” he said.

“The main thing is, we’ve got to get the roads and bridges finished.”

Former Fort Worth City Councilman Clyde Picht encouraged the audience at Fort Worth Project to vote for Kelleher and Moates. Picht has been a longtime voice against the Panther Island boondoggle.

“Don’t vote for either of the incumbents. Vote first for Mary Kelleher and second for Gary Moates,” he said.

Moates and Kelleher will be on the ballot with incumbents Martha “Marty” Leonard and Jim Lane, and newcomer Charles “C.B.” Team.

Early voting in the May 4 water district election begins April 22.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.


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