By Jacquinette Murphy, NDG Contributing Writer
Three African American Democrats are among the three challengers seeking to unseat veteran District 3 Dallas County Commissioner, John Wiley Price, in the upcoming Dallas County Democratic Primary set for May 29. The North Dallas Gazette spoke with Commissioner Price and three of challengers in that race. The winner of the May 29 election will face Republican nominee Charles Lingerfelt, who was unopposed in the primary.
Bennie Brown, a former government contract manager; Betty Culbreath, a retired Dallas county employee; and Micah B. Phillips, a community development leader, are all vying to change the nameplate on this district’s commissioner court seat. Though they bring their own set of ideas to the table, all of their campaigns are knitted with the common thread of change.
Price, who is facing the largest group of political challengers in his county career for a seat that he has held since 1985, is seeking re-election and questioned the cries for change.
“I have been the lone Democrat most of the time and have made substantial gains. South of I-30 is 48-percent of the 2.4 million people, but only 15-percent of the tax base. My cities are amongst the poorest in the district.” shared Price by phone with the North Dallas Gazette.
He also explained the district includes cities which still buy water through a mud district and some are still pumping sewage. “They have land, but no budget to fund the infrastructure and you can not do economic development without water.”
Amid the challenges, Price also shared signs of progress. “For the first time, I now have a majority on the court and a court that embraces the idea of advancing infrastructure in the Southern Sector.”
Price spotlighted the expansion of Home Depot into areas like Wilmer and the Whirlpool Distribution center which brought 300 jobs that he equates to about $60 million dollars to the county’s bottom line.
Recounting his tenure, he concluded. “I have survived and thrived.” Price asked his challengers, “What would you change?”
Micah Phillips and Bennie Brown point to the need for a fresh start and new vision for the district and the citizens in their campaigns.
“The current commissioner has set the tone that you do not want to deal [with him]. The environment is like the forbidden zone,” Phillips told the North Dallas Gazette. “I will unify the district, build collaborative networks, create sustainable communities and get rid of the bureaucracy.”
He continued, “Fifteen cities should be able to pull together and not be polarized. When you can pull together, you can create a bid-friendly environment, were investors are biting at the bit.”
Desoto business owner, Bennie Brown, is tagged as the Accountable Commissioner and highlights integrity and trust as two points of change needed in this district.
According to Brown, “In order to achieve optimal results and unlock growth potential in this County, it is going to require that we establish full accountability and trust of our leaders.”
Brown is the founder and CEO of Hope Beyond Hope Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting Dallas area children summer and afterschool programs. He promotes his 25 years of results-driven executive leadership experience along with contract management and management experience.
“I pride myself on my sound judgment, decisive leadership, high standards, integrity and effective execution of strategic vision and quality improvements.” she stated. “ It starts with developing an accountability system which rests on internal controls and oversight, and a decision-making process that promotes transparency and integrity.”
Phillips and Brown shared thoughts on the restoration of the district’s image while Culbreath took a wider perspective. “The whole court has to have the attitude that none of them can work alone and that all departments must be properly funded.”
Culbreath has 20 years of county government work and years of organizational leadership experience with six of those years actually working in a county district office. She served as the first African American woman from Dallas to lead the DFW Airport Board. Culbreath was the director of the Dallas Housing Authority and twice chaired the Dallas County Planning Commission.
Culbreath says she is running because she is disturbed about the recent decisions the court have made over the years. “They have not been good for the taxpayers, the staff, or the county,” said Culbreath. “I want to restore integrity and fairness to the district. I know how to work the county system. I am a good manager and am conservative with money.”
Phillips is the CEO of Diamonds of Dallas, a non-profit community development corporation that provides social service resources, activities and services that support lower- income residents in displaced neighborhoods. He is also the pastor of Holy Communion Baptist Church and a Dallas firefighter. He is running a grassroots campaign, positioning himself to change the ethical image of the district one handshake or hug at a time.
“I have the uniqueness of being a servant and not a politician. I have been in the valley with the people. I have built collaborative networks with developers, and will bring a spirit of unity to the table.”
These experiences along with his social service and public service education makes Phillips feel equipped for the opportunity. “With total inclusion, we can expect greatness where the citizens will have their voice back in District 3. It is a new day in Dallas County.”
After 27 years, Price may somewhat agree with Phillips, Brown and Culbreath that change is eminent in Dallas County but only for the sake of the latest successes and vision of a more profitable future.
“It is coming to fruition because we now have policymakers in place that understand. I have a judge that understands transportation. Growth and development follows transportation dollars,” Price concluded.
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