Kay Granger Fact Sheet
Kay Granger's Term as Mayor
1996 Campaign for Congress
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It could be said that Kay Granger has been preparing for a life of public service since she was in grade school.
"My mothered first volunteered me when I was 12 years old. Because she had always said I was the 'creative one,' she volunteered me to teach crafts," Granger recalled from her office in Fort Worth. "She was a teacher who had always taught my sister and I that you were supposed to volunteer and give back to the community."
Granger began her professional life by following her mother's advice.
"I reached a time in college when I didn't know what I wanted to do," she said. "At that time, women's careers were essentially nursing, secretarial and teaching. My mother advised me to get my teacher's certificate. She said, 'You can always fall back on teaching.'"
Following her graduation from Texas Wesleyan University, took a job teaching in a Fort Worth area high school. Her colleagues still see these early years as extremely formative ones.
"The most important thing to know about her is she is a 9-year school teacher," Bud Kennedy, a columnist with the Fort Worth Star Telegram, observed. "She still has a lot of 'Let's all work together and get things done' attitude."
Granger taught English and journalism for nine years at Richland High School on the east side of Fort Worth.
"She could literally wear you down," recalled Shirley Ferrell, office manager for Granger when she served as mayor. "She wasn't the easiest person to work for because she was so driven, but she also attracted the most qualified workers because of that drive. Even when she was a teacher, the top students gravitated towards her because she expected more."
Granger grew up, went to school, and has spent her adult life in the Fort Worth area.
"She is quintessentially Forth Worth," Katie Sherrod, a long-time Fort Worth reporter and producer at Dallas' PBS station KERA, said. "One of the reasons she was so successful as mayor was she understood the mind set of Fort Worth.
"I remember having a definite sense of place," Granger told the Online NewsHour in a recent interview. "I lived in Meadowbrook. I went to church at Meadowbrook United Methodist Church. I went to school at Meadowbrook Elementary School and then Meadowbrook Middle School. I learned to dance at Meadowbrook Country Club. All those things grounded me in one place and I think most of Fort Worth is just like the area I grew up in. There is that amazing sense of community. It truly has the best aspects of a small town.
"I remember my neighborhood as being very safe. I didn't realize then, but looking back that is the thing that strikes me," Granger recalled. "I had just graduated high school and my sister had gotten married and was living in Germany because her husband was in the military. So my parents and I were going to go visit them, which was a big deal, because I had never been out of the country. But before we went, I remember we had to have a locksmith come over and have keys to house made because we had never locked the door."
Later on it would be concerns over the rising crime rate that would be the spark for her run for the Fort Worth City Council.
As the 1970s drew to a close, Kay Granger realized she had to make a decision about her career future.
"I had been teaching for several years and it came to the point where I had to make a decision," Granger recalled. "To continue in the school, the career path was to be a teacher then assistant principal and so on. I realized I was following this path only because my mother had done it. So I decided to try other things. I decided to go into business. I started selling insurance in 1979 and continued doing that until 1985 when I opened my own insurance firm."
Her decision to go into business marked one of the significant changes in her life. Also at this time she and her husband divorced, leaving her with three young children. Associates still point to this period as the time in which she developed the tenacity to see a project succeed.
"She was a single parent trying to raise three children and launch a business from scratch," Bob Bolen, the man she would later replace as mayor of Fort Worth, remembered. "To do that you have to be tough and she is that tough."
Granger remembered it as a time when she began to see the role of government in the world.
It was also at this time that Granger began her work in the community. She had worked in her east side community to develop neighborhood programs to improve the state of the local economy and that work helped lead her to a seat on the Fort Worth Zoning Commission.
"She has always been a huge consensus builder. When she first started in local government, she worked on the zoning and planning commission," Sherrod said of Granger's early public career. "She had to walk the fine line between neighborhood interests and those of the developers. She dealt well in an area that always evokes the most passionate debate."
Granger worked on the commission for seven years, while running her business at the same time. Then in 1989, Granger, who had been active in her neighborhood groups, ran for the open seat on the City Council from her neighborhood and won in a narrow victory.
"The Council members do their work not for money but out of a sense of civic duty," Mayor Bolen, who now works at Texas Christian University, said. "Until 1989, a city council member and the mayor only made $10 a week. In 1989 we increased the pay to $75 a week, but that does not really even cover the gas costs. Our structure does eliminate the some people who may be very good, but can do the job for $75 a week. But we get people with great backgrounds; attorneys, business leaders and others. Kay Granger was one of those people."
Granger served one, two-year term on the City Council when in 1991, Bob Bolen, the man who had served as mayor for nine years, announced he was retiring.
"Bob Bolen had stepped down and I felt that I could focus on the crime issue as well as the economy," Granger recalled. "Fort Worth had lost 50,000 manufacturing jobs and the times were tough."
Granger ran a successful campaign on a platform of economic development and crime reduction. During her tenure in office, Fort Worth saw a 50 percent reduction in violent crime.
"It was while starting my business that I saw my first glimpse of government's impact on business," she recalled. "The fact that government could help a business succeed or keep it from getting off the ground. These experiences shaped what I did while mayor. When I was mayor, one of the programs I stressed was to encourage the development of small businesses."
Following four years as the mayor, opportunity knocked a second time on Kay Granger's door. Her long-time friend and political ally, Democratic Representative Pete Geren, announced he would step down at the end of the 104th Congress.
"Three people ran to replace me, but she was the one who had the focus and the sense of timing," Bolen remembered. "She didn't talk about running, she went out and did it. The same thing happened with the Congressional Seat. When [Congressman Pete Geren] retired, she was ready to roll 48 hours later."
Her sense of timing and political savvy led to a solid 17 point victory in November's election.
"My kids have been very understanding," Granger said. "They know this is just a weird hobby their mother has. Their friends' moms do needlepoint and I do politics."
Yet some of her strongest supporters say that now that she is moving to Congress, the very character traits that made her a good mayor may work against her on Capitol Hill.
"Kay's biggest frustration with Congress will be the pace," Katie Sherrod, of KERA, warned. "Kay lives in the active voice, there simply no passivity. Congress may not be able to address issues in the way she is used to doing it. The impulse to get things done is probably her strongest characteristic, but it also may be her Achilles' Heel."