AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson will not be running for re-election, according to an announcement on her Facebook page.
This comes after Nelson was first elected as the Amarillo Mayor in 2017.
“When we took over in 2017, we had come out of a season where we even had a headline on a national paper that said we were the most dysfunctional city in America,” said Nelson, attributing much of the city’s growth to the leadership of City Manager Jared Miller. “I think as far as challenges that we’ve overcome together, and we’ve done all of that together, I’m very proud of putting our city staff team back on its feet.”
However, after three terms, Nelson said it is time to move on.
“I think anytime someone enters into public service, they know that it’s for a season and I think there’s a lot of strength in building up the bench of leaders in Amarillo. So, you know, the best teams are those that have a deep bench and in order to do that, people need to be willing to share the playing time,” she said. “So I think it’s time for me to move on to the next thing and I’m excited about whatever that is.”
Nelson said she is announcing early to give the city the best opportunity to select its next mayor.
“If you think you might be interested, if you think you’re the best person for the city, for the job, then everybody would have a chance to begin putting a campaign together,” said Nelson. “And I think that’s good for voters. I think that gives voters more time to think about the issues that they think are going to be important in the upcoming mayoral campaign.”
In her announcement, she highlighted some accomplishments the city has gone through in her tenure as the Mayor, including:
- Negotiated and signed lease with Elmore Sports Group for 30 years of MLB affiliated baseball and completed construction of Hodgetown Stadium;
- Opened the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo;
- Created the Coming Home Program and the Amarillo Connected Program.
Nelson also highlighted recent economic growth in Amarillo.
“We’ve broken the record for the largest economic development project in the history of the AEDC twice in the last five years and over 4,000 new jobs brought to the city, so a lot of things that we can hang our hat on together and be proud of together. But I think it starts with having a solid team and a good culture for our staff and city hall.”
While some projects have gone unfinished, including updating and renovating the Amarillo Civic Center, Nelson said the council wants what the community needs.
“I know that there were four council members, 80% of our council, who saw the urgency of doing that project, saw the urgency of doing it before interest rates went up,” she said. “I’m disappointed that a disgruntled taxpayer can set aside the representative process that we have with our government and the elected officials that were chosen by our voters. And people say, ‘Well, there was an election that said not to do it.’ Yes, but then there was another election where we all ran on the civic center and all of the incumbents were re-elected knowing that we needed to take action on that project.”
She continued, “It’s, I guess, a divisive issue in our city and given another opportunity to work on it, I might do it differently. But we made the best decision we could in the timeframe that we had and it turns out that we were right. Interest rates have gone up a lot, so much so that we actually couldn’t move forward on the project at the budget that we approved.”
When asked what she would have done differently as mayor in hindsight, Nelson said, “I’ve learned a lot about homelessness and the people involved in that issue. And I’ve grown a lot and the city services surrounding it, I think, have grown a lot in the last five years. I’ve learned a lot about working with people who have passionate opinions on issues and I would like a chance to have some do-overs on things, like how we do public address at meetings, or the civic center. There are some, definitely some things in COVID, that now with more information, you know, we would handle things differently. But we we made the best decision we could at the time, based on the information that we had. So that was definitely a challenging situation.”
She continued, “Yes, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’m so grateful for the grace that people have given me. And you know, I need forgiveness, where I’ve fallen short too, as we all do, but it’s been a tremendous learning experience and such an honor to serve.”
In recent weeks, Nelson has faced backlash for a letter she sent to local church leaders ahead of a Christmas drag show that came to the Amarillo Civic Center.
When asked about the response she received, Nelson said: “The letter was written to a particular group of people, those who share the Christian faith. And so, I know a lot of people were upset about it, but it was actually written in defense of people’s rights to have a show that someone in our community might disagree with. And there was a lot of misinterpretation, especially about the last paragraph of the letter. So you know, just to be very frank about it, I believe God loves everyone. All of us are broken. So if you profess a certain thing or have a certain opinion, God loves you.”
Nelson continued, “So for people who interpret that letter as saying that Jesus didn’t love you, or this particular choice that someone has made keeps you from being able to be saved in God’s eyes, that letter never said that. I don’t believe that and I grieve that someone could have interpreted it that way. So you know, given a chance to do that over, I would write that letter more tightly to make sure it couldn’t be interpreted that way. But it was always written to be taken in the context of people who were in the church. And that last paragraph was truly a call to people in In the church to be kind, and to respect people who have different opinions than we have.”
Nelson also thanked mayors who have gone before her.
“I’ve gotten to finish some of the projects that they started and I look forward to watching the next group of leaders finish things that these teams have started,” she continued. “So that’s how it is working together and living in a city together but I’ll have a tremendous amount of joy watching those future successes, and those leaders will have my support.”
She said she believes Amarillo has a bright future ahead.
When asked about the qualities she hopes the person who succeeds her embodies, Nelson said, “I hope it’s about kindness and respecting people. I hope it’s about their personal character and integrity and not just wearing a label that says, ‘Well, I’m, I’m a Republican, therefore, I am this,’ or ‘I’m a Christian, therefore, I am this.”
“I want a leader who unites us, not one who, you know, throws grenades, stirs up hate, and tries to divide people by labeling them into different groups or camps in our city,” she continued. “We lose if we have a leader who’s about that style of leadership and so that’s who I’m hoping for.”
Nelson also thanked fellow councilmembers Howard Smith, Freda Powell, and Eddie Sauer.
“It’s a unique thing to have served those three terms together and I appreciate so many other people that I’ve had the chance to work with also, but I would just call out those three and say, I can’t imagine having done this without them, the integrity and the character and the hearts that they have.”
Nelson is still fighting blood cancer, which she was diagnosed with while serving as mayor.
“I’m okay but this cancer is a chronic illness, and so I’m looking forward to being able to rest more and kind of focus on, you know, diet and exercise, all the things that doctors say we should all focus on.”
Nelson has served on multiple boards in the community including the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, according to the city of Amarillo website. Read the full announcement on her Facebook page.