The Lewisville Texan Journal is interviewing each candidate who files or announces their candidacy for Lewisville City Council for the May 2017 election. These articles will allow each candidate to tell the voters about their background, experience and ideas. This article is the fifth in the series. Click here to read the other profiles from the series.
Education, diversity, growth and development, and multifamily housing are issues driving Lewisville Morning Rotary Club president Carolyn Wright to run for city council.
Wright has filed to run for Place 1 on the Lewisville City Council for the May 6 election. The seat is the one vacated by Leroy Vaughn, who died earlier this year.
Wright, 54, said she has lived in Lewisville for about 30 years.
Wright is the founder and CEO of the A-WOW International Girls Leadership Initiative. The nonprofit global initiative offers leadership programs to empower, enrich and educate young women ages 16 to 24, according to the organization’s website. The program operates in the United States, Costa Rica, India, Brazil, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and other countries.
Wright said the genesis of her mission was from her own personal crisis.
“Sometimes in life, when you’re in the middle of a crisis is when you find out where your greatest potentials are,” she said. “At that time, I was in the middle of a crisis and my significant other, he had passed away.”
Wright decided to do some traveling. “In the midst of traveling, I began to notice young women and began to engage and talk to them,” Wright said.
While conversing with them, she noted their challenges and made journal entries.
“They all seemed to have similar answers to what their challenges were,” said Wright. “So I took it upon myself to say that I could make an impact and a change in their lives.”
She said that out of her journal about the girls’ challenges came a business plan.
Wright said her mission is funded through grants. “Donations, sponsors, and fundraisers — you know, in-kind — it’s just a variety of ways that we fund the organization,” Wright said.
Wright explained that each country she works in has its own culture, and that they tailor the programs to fit the local needs.
Running for city council is not a new idea, according to Wright, who said that she had considered running two to three years ago.
“It has always been on my heart, and I’ve been compelled to run,” she said.
But the timing was not right, until now, she explained.
“The late Leroy Vaughn, may he rest in peace, I had reached out to him because I thought it was very, very important for me to have his blessing,” Wright said. “Unfortunately with his passing, I felt this could be a blessing in more than one way, in the sense that I could give back to my community and carry on a legacy of what he was building upon.”
Wright said another driving factor for her was having focused her career on developing the leadership and growth of young women.
Despite the city having no statutory role in schools, Wright said she believes the city council can have an impact on education.
“The most current compelling issue with me right now is the building or rebuilding of Hedrick Elementary,” said Wright. “I have a real passion about that, and my passion leans more toward what is in the best interest of the students.”
Wright said there were some decisions that had been made that she felt were not in the best interest of the students.
“Maybe we need to look at some alternatives here,” she said.
Recently after a months-long process involving a citizen committee reviewing the district’s facility needs, the Lewisville ISD Board of Trustees approved putting a bond package on the ballot for May that would pay to tear down both Hedrick Elementary and Hedrick Middle School but only rebuild the middle school. Parents from the Hedrick Elementary zone have been vocal in opposition to the plan.
Asked if she thought the city would have an interest in what LISD does with Hedrick Elementary, Wright said she does.
“I think we should be able to have some influence,” said Wright. “That’s part of the economic and development piece of it.”
Wright said she believed the council had a fiduciary duty to look into it and that the school district and the city council should collaborate.
With regard to the city’s current performance, Wright praised growth and development in both housing and business.
Wright said she thinks multifamily housing is positive for the city.
“We have come a long way, because there for a long time, we just would not allow apartments in the Lewisville area,” Wright said.
She said stereotypes were involved in past decisions on apartments.
“Had we done this 10 years ago, we could be a little bit more progressive than what we are,” Wright said. “So I think what they’re doing now as far as the housing and garnering new industries in the area is a plus,” she added.
“Not only that, they’re driving after more corporations,” Wright said. “They’re giving better incentives, which is bringing corporations here.”
When asked what Wright thinks the city could do better, she spoke about diversity and minority outreach.
“We could do some things totally different. That’s one area that I know.”
Wright said Native Americans could be better served. “There’s a nice group of Native Americans here that we don’t know about,” said Wright.
According to the latest census bureau estimates from 2015, Lewisville’s population is 0.2 percent American Indian or Alaska Native. Blacks make up 10.8 percent, and Hispanics are 30.6 percent. Asians are 9 percent. Non–Hispanic whites are 46.4 percent, the census reported.
“I think the city is targeting the Hispanics,” Wright said. “I think the African American community could be better served.”
Wright said the Chin community in Lewisville could be better served. “Are there challenges in doing that? Yes… and one of the biggest challenges is when you don’t have representation,” she said. “If we don’t give presence into those communities, change does not come.”
Lewisville has a sizable population of refugees from the Chin state of Myanmar, formerly Burma. While exact numbers are not available, the census includes Chin refugees in the category of “Other Asian,” which constitutes 2.9 percent of Lewisville’s population.
Wright said that although she thinks the city is doing a good job, she doesn’t think the representative makeup of the council reflects the community.
“You’ll find in life when you don’t have representation, people tend to just hide themselves and stay under the radar.”
To affect the change that would provide for the outreach and representation for these minority communities, Wright said she first plans to get onto the council and see what plans are in place.
“As a new kid on the block, I want to hear what they have to say,” Wright said she thinks she will bring ideas to the table.
Born in Florida, Wright’s is the youngest in a family of 9 siblings. She has five sisters and three brothers. In her school years, her family moved to Georgia then west Texas. After college at Angelo State University in San Angelo where she majored in criminal justice, she moved to the Dallas area. Wright chose Lewisville when she was working in Carrollton, and decided to move here to be closer to work.
After college, Wright worked for the US Postal Service for 27 years in various positions.
Wright has been a member of Rotary for four and a half years, and has served as president since the summer of 2016. During her time, Wright said she had been instrumental in organizing the group’s international projects.
Based on Wright’s travels to India for her nonprofit, Rotary became involved in a teaching project in Nashik. The group originally had intended to do some computer training there for the youth, but decided to extend it to adults.
Morning Rotary has since taken on a project in Nashik to provide additional water. Originally, plans were to build a check dam for water conservation. They have since discovered that they may be able to tap into underground lava tube formations that could serve as aquifers. Wright sees this development as a possible economic opportunity for the people of Nashek, who might benefit from a bottled water plant at some point in the future. Wright said the group is bringing eight Indians to the U.S. over the summer for vocational training with regards to the water project.
Morning Rotary is also involved in education. Wright said the group works with 11 area elementary schools, including Central Elementary and Hedrick, which are designated as Title 1 low-income schools.
Wright mentioned Rotary’s involvement in the city’s household hazardous waste collection event every second Saturday of the month.
“We do so many things. I could go on and on, and it prides me to do so,” she said.
Wright is not the only rotary member in the race for City Council. Both positions up for election have other Rotarians in the race. TJ Gilmore is a member of the club and is the incumbent in Place 3. Bob Troyer is a current member and past president of the Morning Rotary and is running in Place 1. Wright also chose to file for place 1.
“Admittedly, it does seem to be a little bit weird,” said Troyer about being in a race against his Rotary colleague. “I was surprised when I found out she was running. I had no idea that she would be.” Troyer said he had talked about the election with Wright at the annual City Council retreat earlier this month.
“Just like Leroy [Vaughn] told me when I talked to him about running, we said we have to do what we have to do,” Troyer said. “And I basically said the same thing to her, but I also said I’m in it to win it.”
Troyer said he thought the competition would be civil.
“It’s a great relationship that all of us have amongst each other, and the beauty of it all is that we understand that our passions are to be reckoned,” Wright said. “We all have a passion for Lewisville, and no matter who gets in office, I believe that it would make Lewisville a better Lewisville. “
Asked if running against a fellow club member is awkward, Wright dismissed it. “We’re all professionals,” she said. “I think most people that are running understand that at the end of the day, we want to get the job done. That’s the most important part.”
Early voting for the May 6 election begins April 24. Aside from Lewisville City Council, there are also Lewisville ISD trustees and a bond package on the ballot for the school district. The Lewisville Texan Journal will post voting locations prior to early voting.