It’s hard to imagine a more unassuming City Hall than the simple rectangular brick building in Everman. Mayor Ray Richardson is ready and waiting in the lightly appointed entryway when I arrive. Craig Spencer, the city's Director of Emergency Services, follows right on his heels. Both men have agreed to give a driving tour of the city, which covers a mere 2.3 square miles in their estimation. We’re in the early stages of a partnership with this community, but it already feels like a good fit. There’s a saying in our office: “if you want to impact a culture, start in the communities where you can have coffee with the Mayor.”
Coffee isn’t on the agenda on this particular muggy day in late August. But an in-depth history of the city itself is, and the depth of perspective these men offer is more appealing, anyway. Mayor Richardson is the city’s native son, encouraged to run for public office by a series of citizens who believed in him after his stint on City Council. Chief Spencer, on the other hand, grew up down the road in Arlington and returned later in life. He now oversees all of Everman’s emergency services, including a fire department made up almost entirely of volunteers.
The former is direct and practical, the latter more optimistic. But both men share an undeniable love for their community and a desire to see it thrive.
The City That Never Stretched
More than 7,000 people call Everman home. Many of them are commuters who work outside of city limits; not surprising in a community that devotes most of its 2-mile area to housing and public spaces. It’s a small city, relatively unchanged since its incorporation back in 1945. What began as a railroad town ballooned in the 1980s, when the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport launched a boom that shaped most of the mid-cities community.
Paved roads replaced the train tracks in the center of town, and the small businesses that had sprung up around the station faded into obscurity. As populations spiked across North Texas, Everman clung to its identity as a tight-knit community.
“As Fort Worth grew, Everman never really was interested in growing. They always wanted to stay and be a small community,” Spencer said. “Fort Worth has continued to grow and continued to grow over the years, and has essentially grown completely around us.”
“We do fight to maintain our identity. We’re proud of our town. We’re very proud of our town, and the last thing we want to do is lose that small town feel. Once you lose it, it’s impossible to get it back.”
The unmistakable charm of Everman comes from that unspoken agreement; the sense that, even as the city grows and evolves, it should never abandon its rustic suburban sensibilities. Local businesses and public parks are staples of the community. The entire city rallies around their one and only high school team. In fact, Everman ISD includes schools outside of city limits and, between staff and students, boasts a population equal to that of the entire town. There’s a specific culture in Everman; one that is, on the whole, positive.
But, the current mayor says, their narrow focus held the city back for a time, as well.
Scars, Strain, and Supermarkets
Spencer, a transplant, found himself hard-pressed to think of anything that would prevent Everman from becoming an idyllic place to live and work. In his mind, the city has every building block it needs. As a permanent resident, Mayor Richardson has a more complex understanding of his community, just as a longtime sports fan might have more criticism for their favored franchise than a burgeoning supporter would.
Spencer sees the city as it is now: full of good people with good hearts, ready to tackle whatever problems might arise. Richardson, while fully confident in those traits, has been there long enough to see the scars, too.
“It started with Council and our City Manager,” Richardson said. “They didn’t want things to change. They wanted everything to stay as-is. That’s why we’re dealing with what we’re dealing with today. The city is run down. There was no push to bring in economic development or businesses. Our Code Enforcement tried to enforce things, and they’d be told to let it go. Because of that, we have neighborhoods that are run down.”
The combination of a stagnant leadership and increased strain from development in neighboring cities took a toll on Everman’s infrastructure. More people than ever were using the roads that led through into Fort Worth, but few of them were local residents whose tax dollars could fund repairs. Major businesses found other markets more appealing and pulled out. Small businesses struggled to stay afloat.
Perhaps most notably, grocers abandoned the area. The entire city was labeled a Food Desert until 2018, when a strip mall at the southwest corner of the town was purchased and converted into a series of storefronts that include Everman Supermarket.
Now, the city is poised for a comeback.
The Way Forward
Both Spencer and Richardson are hoping for a revival in Everman. Each believes that the city’s fate rests in the hands of its citizens. That’s why both of them are excited to bring the Community Powered Revitalization (CPR) program to their city.
“I’m a huge proponent of looking out for each other’s neighbor,” Spencer said. “Neighbors watching neighbors can go a lot further than just watching each other’s property. [They can take] care of each other, as well.
“Our community always comes together to look out for one another, and I think the CPR program is going to be a phenomenal opportunity to give our citizens another opportunity to come together and help each other out as a neighbor.”
We designed CPR to harness the full power of a community in order to solve its problems. Aging homes and outdated infrastructure are major obstacles, to be sure. But they can’t compare to the raw power of men and women who are determined to make their community a better place.
For his part, the Mayor believes that everyone can benefit from Community Powered Revitalization. First and foremost, the city’s elderly and disabled citizens — some of whom live on subsidies of barely more than $700/month — will finally have the means to keep their homes safe and secure. Beyond that, Richardson expects to see a cultural snowball effect spread across the city, inspiring citizens to remodel and repair their own homes.
“I want to get our property values up enough that families will come in and move into our city,” Richardson said. “We need to have people here that we know are going to be here and spend 15, 20, 30 years living in our city. That’s my ultimate goal. Things can’t keep going as they have been in the past. And, at the same time, we can help senior citizens and veterans and disabled people that don’t have the funds available to clean up their houses.”
Only time will tell if new ideas and programs can mix with Everman’s unique culture. But, for the time being, we’re proud to help our neighbors as they strive to make their community a better place. After all, that’s what 6 Stones is all about.