UTA alumni are leading three vibrant and diverse Texas cities
Three texas cities, three mayors, three Mavericks. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price ’72, Grand Prairie Mayor Ron Jensen ’73, and Frisco Mayor Maher Maso ’08 each took different paths to The University of Texas at Arlington, but they all found success in the business world and now hold their city hall’s highest office. They also share a similar passion to make their communities better for all residents, present and future.
Grand Prairie Mayor Ron Jensen, '73
Mayor Ron Jensen was elected to the Grand Prairie City Council in 2002 and elected mayor in 2013.
Ron Jensen is a natural storyteller. Asked how he came to be mayor, he sits back in his chair and starts the tale he calls “my one night at Baylor.”
It was 1971. Jensen had completed his sophomore year at UTA, where he was juggling his studies with a job as a machinist at Rayco Construction.
“My father, who was a Baptist minister, told me, ‘we’ve got enough money to send you to Baylor,’ so I was set to transfer,” Jensen says.
Then in July, Jensen’s best friend introduced him to his sister, Rebecca Hyde, and they soon started dating. When September rolled around and Jensen moved into his dorm in Waco, he had second thoughts.
“I knew if I stayed at Baylor I could lose her,” he says. “I moved back the next day. That was my one night at Baylor.”
As luck or fate would have it, he was able to make late registration at UTA and got his old job back. He and Rebecca married in December, and they had their first child the following year when Jensen also completed his degree in psychology.
After graduation, he went to work for Control Products Corp., a Grand Prairie producer of aircraft lighting parts. There, his boss, Wayne Hanks, encouraged him to get involved in the community.
Jensen joined and took leadership roles in the YMCA, Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, and other civic groups. In 2002, he was elected to the City Council, serving alongside longtime Mayor Charles England. When England decided not to run for re-election in 2013, Jensen, then mayor pro-tem, ran and won.
“As they say, the rest is history,” says Jensen, who achieved his lifelong dream of purchasing Control Products and now serves as president and CEO.
Now, the father of three and grandfather of three can reflect and see how the lessons he learned in college continue to pay off.
“At UTA, back when I was young and married and working, I learned to organize, to balance things, and to keep things prioritized,” he says. “I learned to focus on what has to be done first and maybe what I’d like to do last.”
As mayor, Jensen’s priorities have included boosting economic development, lowering crime, and improving transportation in Grand Prairie, which has grown from 127,000 in 2000 to more than 182,000 this year. If trends continue, the population could reach 217,000 by 2020.
He also worked to increase tourism and recreational opportunities, including construction of The Epic, a $75 million water park under construction in Central Park west of State Highway 161. To improve community engagement, Jensen launched monthly five-mile bike rides called Cyclin’ with the Mayor and two-mile walks called Strollin’ with the Mayor as part of the Get Fit GP community initiative.
In a bid to unite the city’s diverse communities, Jensen started the Mayor’s Community Table, which allows attendees to mix with fellow residents from different neighborhoods, backgrounds, ethnic groups, and races.
“I’m doing it so people can get to know each other,” he says. “Once you get to know people who are from different races or different backgrounds, they’re no longer strangers. They’re not ‘those people.’ ”
He adds that two topics are off-limits: politics and religion.
“When you talk about those you get emotional. It’s just divisive. I can’t change your mind on religion, and it’s pretty hard to change your mind on politics, so why try? Let’s just talk.”
Asked about his legacy, he says it’s simple. When he leaves office, he wants Grand Prairie residents to feel better about working, living, and playing there than when he got elected.
“That’s why I do this, things like the bike rides, talking to every group I can. Community involvement is what gives people that feeling. We can build roads and have great fire and police, good restaurants. Those are superficial things we need to enjoy in the city, but it’s not what I want my legacy to be. I want us to get along, have a good time, and be proud of the city.”