Learning a new job is always difficult, but rarely does it entail scheduling more than 100 meetings in the first two months and reading a 1,000-page briefing manual. Such is the life of a first-time member on the Dallas City Council. Good thing District 14 Councilman David Blewett has never been one to give up easily.
“You’re drinking from a firehose,” Blewett says. “People say, ‘How are you doing it? How are you managing all these things?’ It’s because I wanted this job. If you really want something, you have a chance at it.”
This spring, the Lakewood Heights neighbor rose to the top of a three-candidate field and beat three-term Councilman Philip Kingston in a runoff election that surprised many. In 2013, Kingston beat Blewett in an election to replace Angela Hunt. This time, Blewett rallied his base in the educational community and cruised to victory with 54 percent of the vote.
Blewett says his success is a sign that the district is changing. In a departure from Kingston’s aggressive methods, voters opted for the mortgage banker with a desire to change the culture at City Hall through compromise.
“Philip’s way of dealing with staff and constituents had become an issue,” Blewett says. “I have great respect for him, but I felt like the district was looking for a change. The way I do things is different. Our last City Council was significantly broken, and I got tired of it. I thought it was important to try to make it better.”
Although Blewett’s approach to solving problems may be radically different from Kingston, the councilman says their values are similar. One of Blewett’s first priorities is to beef up public safety by hiring more cops and enforcing existing laws against porch thieves and speeding through the neighborhoods. He also hopes to improve infrastructure and address the crowded nature of schools caused by an influx of families moving to East Dallas.
“I like different kinds of people. District 14 is full of them, and I love it.”
With seven children enrolled in Dallas ISD schools, Blewett is well suited to address problems like the high turnover rate at the district’s schools. Teachers have come and gone, but the handful who remain have no trouble recognizing the Blewett kids who have passed through the Woodrow Wilson feeder pattern for more than a decade.
They attended long enough to remember when Mockingbird Elementary, the regional deaf school, required all its students to take sign language every year. Blewett’s older children became fluent, and family dinners sometimes passed in silence as they conversed via hand signals.
“The teachers laugh at us we’ve been there so long,” Blewett says. “We’re the old-timers now.”
Blewett first moved to Dallas in 1984 to play football at Southern Methodist University. After graduating, he accepted a job in Detroit, but the winters didn’t suit him. He moved back to Texas for good in 1994.
While at a wedding in Ohio, Blewett met his wife, Kristin, and the two started dating long distance. She was looking for jobs in Cincinnati, but he sent her the classified ads in the Dallas Morning News with a note that said, “Dallas has a lot of jobs.” She took the bait. The couple settled in East Dallas, where they’ve lived for the past 25 years.
Blewett’s job as councilman has been an adjustment for the close-knit family. Nightly meals around the dinner table have been scaled back to a few times a week, and it takes effort not to talk about work while on a date with his wife. Plus, with seven kids, there’s always a football game, basketball game or dance recital.
“We’re still figuring it out,” Blewett says. “It’s good there’s only eight years you can do this because it completely changes your life.”
District 14 is one of the most varied areas in Dallas with single-family neighborhoods in East Dallas, apartment-heavy streets in Uptown and the business centers of downtown. But Blewett doesn’t like calling it diverse.
“I prefer the word interesting,” he says. “You can have people that think alike and act alike but look a little bit different. I like different kinds of people. District 14 is full of them, and I love it.”
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