The Dallas Morning News
Irving’s mayor-elect undaunted by the job ahead
Beth Van Duyne
Duyne as an energetic go-getter who does her research before she makes a decision, then uses a laserlike focus to accomplish whatever goal she sets for herself. They say she is intelligent, determined, articulate.
“She makes her position very, very clear in terms of what she stands for and what she doesn’t and why,” said Shiek Shah, a friend and former boss.
Van Duyne was born in upstate New York. Her parents moved to Irving in 1986, and Van Duyne began attending Greenhill School. She graduated at 17, then moved out of her parents’ house, got her own apartment in Irving and began working to save money for college.
“They thought I would get a lot more out of it if I was responsible for paying for it,” she said.
Van Duyne worked — sometimes two jobs at a time — for three years before she left for Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
“I learned to be somewhat patient, and that perseverance does pay off,” she said.
Van Duyne dated Chris “Casey” Wallach through college. After graduation, they moved to Irving and married. In 1999, their daughter, Katie, was born. Katie was diagnosed with an eye abnormality shortly after birth and had several surgeries, but her left eye remained highly sensitive to sunlight.
Van Duyne said the condition made it difficult for Katie to do things outside. A park near the family’s Hackberry Creek home didn’t have structures that provided shade. So Van Duyne spearheaded a neighborhood initiative to get outdoor structures and wooden play equipment built at the park. She raised money, rounded up volunteers and got businesses to pitch in materials.
“For someone who had a toddler on her hip and was pregnant at the time, she got an immense amount of work done,” said friend Julie Richey.
Van Duyne co-owns with her husband a home-based marketing and communications firm. Her rivalry with Gears stems from her first run for public office. Unhappy with how Gears represented her neighborhood on a zoning case when he was a council member, Van Duyne filed to run against Gears when his seat was up in 2004. She won.
Gears was elected mayor a
Beth Van Duyne
year later. For the next five years, he and Van Duyne publicly quarreled. She was frequently on the losing end of votes on major city projects and issues. Gears portrayed her as someone whose only political accomplishments were voting against him. He criticized her for not building enough of a consensus among her colleagues to put together any tangible political successes.
Van Duyne’s supporters, however, say she was mischaracterized. They say she was never credited for the work she put in and the ideals she brought to the table. Her mother, Barbara Van Duyne, said her daughter pored over the thick packets of backup materials that came with council agendas.
“So when she would go to a council meeting, she had her facts,” Barbara Van Duyne said. “It was so frustrating to see that they were just kind of dismissing her.”
During her council tenure, Van Duyne was slow in turning in travel reimbursement requests.
Months after she stepped down, she turned in documentation for more than $4,700 in reimbursement requests for travel that occurred between 2006 and 2009. The council then made new travel rules and deadlines for its members’ reimbursement requests. The city never paid her $4,700 request.
Van Duyne stepped down from her council seat last year and hinted that she was eyeing a mayoral run. She and Gears beat two other former council 40
Husband, Chris “Casey” Wallach; daughter, Katie; son, Pearce
Co-owns a marketing and communications consulting company with Wallach
Bachelor of arts, Cornell University
Irving City Council member, 2004-10; elected mayor this month
Will be sworn in July 7 members in last month’s general election. In this month’s runoff, Gears built a campaign around attempts to paint Van Duyne as a “résumé fraud.”
In television ads and on a website his campaign launched, Gears accused his rival of exaggerating her business experience. Both candidates declined to release copies of their résumés before the runoff.
Gears also portrayed Van Duyne as a tax cheat, because the consulting company she owns with her husband never paid up to $560 in business personal property taxes. County officials said that homebased business owners often aren’t aware that they must report to the Dallas Central Appraisal District the value of any equipment or property used to generate revenue.
Gears also accused his opponent of charging taxpayers for a $217 entrance fee to a Disney parade. That expense was charged to a city credit card in 2008 after Van Duyne, who was in Orlando, Fla., for a conference, charged the event to her room. She said she didn’t know why the event was charged to a city card and not her own. She also said the matter wasn’t brought up until the election.
Van Duyne said she will pay the back taxes and reimburse the city for the Disney parade. She said last week that she has not yet received invoices or bills from the Dallas Central Appraisal District or the city.
City officials and employees last week said Van Duyne is a straight-shooter whom they look forward to working with again. Government and external relations officer Jonathon Bazan worked with her while she was on the council’s legislative committee. He said she is diligent and well spoken.
“She knows the processes very well, so she was very active,” he said.
Council member Joe Philipp said that he has high expectations for the new mayor and is confident she’ll be effective. He said they had already met to discuss their goals. City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said the council’s upcoming strategic planning process will provide Van Duyne and city employees with the perfect opportunity to get on the same page.
Shah, the friend and former boss, is CEO of information technology services company Akili, where Van Duyne once served as vice president for marketing. Shah said that residents can expect her to follow through on her campaign promises to rethink the Heritage District redevelopment, audit entertainment center expenses and be a fiscal watchdog.
“She will be a transparent mayor,” he said.
Van Duyne said that she’s not intimidated by the work that lies ahead.
“The opportunities are right there,” the mayor-elect said. “You just have to be able to get them done.”