Arlington elects first Black councilwoman
Mathew Shaw | 7/1/2019, 2:45 p.m.
The Dallas Examiner
After decades of service to her community, Dr. Barbara Odom-Wesley said she was ready to face the next chapter in her life: being the first Black woman to serve on the Arlington City Council.
Though she expressed feeling both humbled and proud, she said she also wondered why it took so long for Arlington to elect a Black woman to the City Council.
“We’re in 2019. Why hasn’t there already been a Black female on the Arlington City Council?” she pondered. “But at least we’re here now, right? I’m opening doors for whoever’s going to come behind me, so I take it as quite a responsibility.”
The daughter of Elzie Odom, Arlington’s first Black mayor from 1997 to 2003, Odom-Wesley led a lifetime of public service inspired by her parents.
“He and my mother taught me that service is the price you pay for the space you occupy,” she said. “God didn’t bless you just so you could be happy. He blessed you so you could make other people not happy but blessed, so you could bless others. I’ve taken that responsibility seriously my whole life.”
Arlington has been her home for almost 40 years, and during that time she has taught and worked in health care administration and served on numerous boards and committees, such as a charter member for the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee and on the board of trustees for Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.
“I’ve always had a vision for service,” she stated. “I was president of this and secretary of that, starting with the Campfire Girls and National Honor Society. I was always an officer, always in a leadership position, and I felt like that was a responsibility.”
She won the District 8 seat last month by 62%, defeating three other candidates.
Odom-Wesley first ran last year to replace Councilman Charlie Parker after he retired from his District 1 seat.
“It’s also the first seat my dad held, so I decided I can step up and serve at that level,” she recalled.
Though she lost that race by about 350 votes, she said she learned a lot. She decided she would not run again because she assumed the incumbent would occupy the seat for the next six years.
However, Arlington voters approved term limits later that year, which opened a seat in District 8.
“If [the incumbent] had been running in this seat, I would not have run,” she said. “The Lord parted the waters, and then really just kind of pushed me through it and made this happen.”
As a council member, she said she wanted to work with allies and former adversaries to bring workable solutions for the issues facing the growing city of almost 400,000, from its lack of public transportation to the controversy around short-term rentals.
“I’m not a politician. I don’t accept that label,” she declared. “I am a public servant, and so I’m here to help people, and as I said all through my campaign and at every opportunity, I want to be their voice. I want to be the voice for the citizens of Arlington, and since I was elected at an at-large position, that’s everybody in Arlington.”