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Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings ’76
As he hustles along the corridors of I.M. Pei’s massive, cantilevered Dallas City Hall on a Wednesday morning in May, Mayor Mike Rawlings (tall, broad-shouldered, quick to smile) moves with a slight limp, a reminder of his days as a defensive end on the Boston College football team.
Rawlings—who, like other big city mayors in Texas, is a gun-control-favoring Democrat—was elected with 56 percent of the runoff vote in 2011. He spends four days a week at City Hall and also works as a managing partner in a private equity firm.
According to today’s schedule, he will take part in three open meetings with the 15-member City Council (and will vote as a member). He will be party to one closed executive meeting, a short session with the city attorneys, a couple of sit-downs with individual council members, two interviews with local reporters, and at least three other meetings covering subjects ranging from downtown development to digital branding for the city, all running end-to-end from 8:30 a.m. until late in the hot, humid afternoon. Rawlings, who is married and the father of two adult children, is known for his balancing acts.
In college, the Texas native was a communication and philosophy major. He worked in advertising and marketing for more than 25 years, serving as CEO of several companies, including Tracy-Locke, one of the country’s largest advertising firms. From 1997 to 2003, he was president and chief concept officer at Dallas-based Pizza Hut.
All the while, he played an active role in civic institutions such as the Dallas Park and Recreation Board, on which he served as president, and the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, which he chaired. In 2006 he led the effort to fund and build the Bridge, a 75,000-square-foot recovery center for the chronically homeless.
In this and other projects, such as Grow South, a wide-ranging development plan for the city’s beleagured southern sector, Rawlings has worked to combine private and public funding. “If you lead with the private side,” he says, “the public side will come around.”
With two years remaining in his term, Rawlings is asked if he will run again, and he smiles and says, “I’m not going to think about it at all for another 12 months.” Tomorrow he has to interview candidates to run the city’s international airport.
Michael J. Mooney is a staff writer at D magazine in Dallas.