By Allana J. Barefield
A prominent pastor and former leader of Texas Baptists could become the first African American mayor of a suburban Fort Worth city, come December.
The Rev. Michael Evans, longtime pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield, a suburban Tarrant County community southeast of Fort Worth, beat three other candidates in November 3rd’s primary election for a spot on that city’s December runoff ballot.
Primary elections historically have been held in the spring in Mansfield, but the city moved the election to November after the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evans said he had not fully comprehended the magnitude of Tuesday’s decisive victory.
“Oh Lord, don’t make me cry,” Evans said recently during a telephone interview with Texas Metro News (TMN). “People didn’t have the opportunity or the courage to get here.”
Evans compiled 11,024 votes—or nearly 40 percent of the ballots cast—in last Tuesday’s election, according to Mansfield City Secretary Susana Marin.
He outpaced three other candidates by double digits. Opponent Brent Newsom won 8,376 votes, or 30 percent of ballots cast, while candidate George Fassett garnered 4,352, about 16 percent of the vote. Terry Moore earned 4,131 or about 15 percent of ballots cast.
Voters in Mansfield will return to the polls on December 8 to decide between Evans and Newsom. Early voting will be November 23 through December 4, Marin said.
Some Mansfield and Tarrant County residents celebrated Evans’ primary win.
“We need diversity here. We need someone who can represent the Browns and the Blacks,” said Thresa Tyus, a Mansfield resident who knew little about Evans before meeting the mayoral candidate at the polls and casting a favorable vote for him.
Tyus has lived in Mansfield for nearly 19 years—long enough, she said, to see an increase in racial groups buying homes in the city.
“I think it’s time. Mansfield is growing more and becoming more diverse,” said Tyus, a 52-year-old wife and mother of three.
Other Tarrant County pastors celebrated Evan’s primary win.
The Rev. Kyev Tatum, pastor of Fort Worth’s New Mount Rose Baptist Church, has known Evans since he was an 18-year-old college student and the two attended the same church.
“For any town in Tarrant County to elect a Black mayor is significant,” Tatum said. “We live in the most conservative, confederate, urban county in Texas.”
Tatum said Evans understands issues that are of concern to Blacks in Mansfield and would be committed to addressing them and making appropriate changes.
“It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to do it,” Tatum said.
Two months ago, Mansfield residents rallied against police brutality. Evans saw the crowd and joined them.
“We were out there all saying together, that justice and equity are owed to all human beings,” he said.
Evans formerly led the predominantly white Baptist General Convention of Texas and served as its first Black president. He has been active in Mansfield’s faith and civic communities for 31 years.
Evans attributed his support to voters’ belief in his campaign platform of among other plans, to make the city more inclusive and to lower taxes.
“Individuals believe as a city that we have a bright future that includes the young people as well as our seasoned amongst us,” he said in the TMN telephone interview. “They value safety and good economic opportunities that help us to lower our tax base.”
Evans wants to see the community show up to the polls again to be a part of history. “It’s going to take all of us to make it happen,” he said.