Achieving Large Goals

Short Essays from Three U.S. Mayors

Mayors from cities in Oregon, Texas, and Oklahoma explain how they move their communities toward achieving large goals.

Lacey Beaty serves as mayor of Beaverton, Oregon.

The Catalyst asked three mayors from cities with non-partisan mayoral elections to answer this question:

How do you build consensus around your top priorities?

Lacey Beaty serves as mayor of Beaverton, Oregon. Elected to that office in 2020, the Oregon State University graduate previously served six years on her town’s City Council. A combat medic who served during the Iraq War, Beaty is a graduate of the George W. Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program.

As local elected leaders, mayors have a unique ability to bring people together. Because we are embedded within the community and intimately acquainted with its strengths and challenges, mayors are in a special position to employ the power of convening for the common good. 

In January 2021, our county lacked clear communication and expectations about the COVID-19 vaccine. Utilizing the power of convening, I brought together leaders from the private and public sectors for a COVID-19 Summit. I did not know what the answer would be, but I knew if we brought the right people together and we checked our egos at the door, we could create a solution that benefitted our whole community. 

Within two weeks, we piloted the first mass vaccination site in Washington County, right on Nike’s World Headquarters in Beaverton. By using Nike’s employee parking structure and staff volunteers, special district Fire and Rescue employees, and the City’s emergency management volunteers, we successfully distributed nearly 50,000 life-saving doses. 

This innovative approach is noteworthy because several public and private stakeholders were brought together in partnership, sharing ideas and resources for the common good. Moreover, every level of government came together — city, county, state, and federal — to host this vaccine site at a critical time.

Convening key stakeholders while checking egos at the door is a proven path forward through difficult decisions to accomplish crucial work for our communities.

David Holt serves as mayor of Oklahoma, City.

David Holt

David Holt serves as mayor of Oklahoma City, a position he has held since 2018. The attorney and businessman previously served in the Oklahoma State Senate as well as in several positions in Washington, D.C., including on President George W. Bush’s White House staff.

Oklahoma City is living in a golden age, culturally and economically. Seventy-five percent of our residents say they like our direction. I came into office in 2018 as mayor with the mantra “One OKC,” reflecting the ideal that we could continue to do great things if we set aside the things that divide us and find consensus.

Oklahoma City is diverse in every way and is very much a microcosm of the entire United States. Yet across that diverse electorate, 72% of voters in 2019 approved a wide-ranging $1 billion investment in our future (known as MAPS 4), and I have won elections with 78 and 60%.

How do we achieve consensus in OKC when so many other American governments fail? One major reason is the way we hold elections. Our mayoral elections are best described as a nonpartisan, top-two format. There can be up to two rounds of voting, with the top two candidates advancing to the second round if no single candidate receives a majority in the first round (if that happens, the second election is not held).

All candidates must face all voters and all voters get to see all candidates. Those two principles are critical and temper extremism. I have come to believe that Americans are not “polarized,” as is so often said. Some are, but in the middle are 60 to 70% of Americans who are willing to compromise and get things done. Oklahoma City’s electoral system allows mayors to work with that bipartisan coalition. At other levels of government, where closed partisan primaries are the norm, power is shifted away from the pragmatic center and given to extremist groups.

Certainly, consensus-building is still hard work, even in a favorable electoral system. You must spend time listening and building trust with communities that may be new to your life experience. You must be willing to actually incorporate their ideas, something we used to call compromise.

In an electoral system as in OKC, you are rewarded for governing that way. Bring that kind of reform to every electoral process across our country, elect leaders who will utilize it, and you’ll see effective consensus bloom again across our nation.

Mattie Parker serves as mayor of Fort Worth.

Mattie Parker

Mattie Parker was elected mayor of Fort Worth in 2021 after serving as chief of staff to former Mayor Betsy Price.  She previously was as an aide to two Texas House members and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, along with serving as founding CEO of the Cradle to Career non-profit organization.

In his farewell address, President Ronald Reagan offered a key lesson: “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” In Fort Worth, we’ve learned it’s not just what’s happening at dinner tables across our city –  it’s about who’s invited to the table at large.

Fort Worth is proud to be home to an increasingly diverse population of nearly one million residents. Our nine City Council members, like the residents they represent, range widely in age, race, gender, profession, economic background, and political affiliation.

The strength of our Council lies in those differences. We reach across the aisle and learn from one another. At our table, we share a commitment to bringing the highest quality of life to residents. We build consensus to do the hard work of good governance.

We look past politics and ask ourselves the hard questions. How can we keep our community safe? How do we get students on track? How can we ensure single parents have the support they need? And if there isn’t a family dinner table, how do we create a nurturing seat?

We like to say “y’all means all,” and that means we have a shared responsibility to focus on what unites us. Democracy is frail. From elected officials to servant leaders in our churches, schools, and businesses, to residents across our city, it takes all of us. Great change happens at the dinner table no doubt, but it also happens in the middle – not on the far ends of the political fray.

In Fort Worth, we save you a seat.