It’s a late Friday afternoon when Delia Jasso walks into a conference room some feet away from her office in Dallas City Hall. Wearing a red, knee-length sheath dress with black pumps, she greets our staff and takes a seat at the helm of the conference table ready to talk business.
Jasso doesn’t have time to waste. On the verge of a third term as the Dallas City Council District 1 representative, her commitment-packed agenda is about to blow up with campaign stops. (At press time, Jasso’s campaign was in full swing.) She’ll face opposition as she did in her first city council race in 2009. But if all goes her way in the May 11 elections, Jasso will continue full force in improving the quality of life south of the Trinity River.
“I’m going to campaign like I’ve always campaigned: as a positive person who has lived in Oak Cliff my whole life [and] has the experience … to get things done,” Jasso says, looking me square in the eye. “This is not a part-time job. To me, it’s a full-time job, not only to answer to my constituents but to Get. Things. Done.”
With the council, Jasso operates a $2 billion annual budget to meet Dallas citizens’ needs. Her native District 1 encompasses Kessler and Stevens parks, Bishop Arts and Dells districts, Kidd Springs, Lake Cliff, Elmwood, Hampton Hills, Las Haciendas, L.O. Daniel, Westhaven, parts of Winnetka Heights, and the Winnetka, Leila P. Cowart and Anson Jones elementary school neighborhoods. Revisiting her four years as a council member, Jasso’s proactive and reactive response to community needs in and outside her district is undeniable.
District 1 has seen a variety of new restaurants and shops in the Bishop Arts, Tyler-Davis and Latino-business-packed Jefferson Boulevard areas. Among recreational infrastructure changes are a new baseball diamond at Lake Cliff Park, a renovated Kidd Springs Recreation Center and the opening of the Oak Cliff Cultural Center and Elmwood Parkway Trails. Jasso is also behind the Dallas Loves Animals and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender task forces, both of which she created and chairs.
When Dallas Loves Animals is not doing spay and neuter events to reduce the number of animals running loose in some neighborhoods, they are working on pet adoption events throughout Dallas. “My contribution is bringing the council people to understand that they need to have an adoption event in their district.” Many residents have saved money in buying a pet by instead visiting the Dallas Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, which had a record number of adoptions last year, Jasso says.
Her work with the LGBT Task Force led to the city sponsoring its first LGBT Pride Month event in 2011. The one-day reception increased to four weekly events last June that included panel discussions on the city’s non-discrimination ordinance and its services for the LGBT community. I had huge support from the LGBT community when I ran [for office] the first time,” Jasso says of her reasons for starting the task force. “I felt very strongly that they needed a voice on the council.”
In her second council term, Jasso delivered – in less than six months – tools imperative to expediting domestic violence court cases. After learning such cases were not being solved fast enough, Jasso met with county judges to determine actions for improvement.
“The judges said, ‘We know what we need on our end, but it’s the first time that we’ve had anybody from the city come to talk to us about family violence,’” Jasso recalls. Her collaboration with the county, police department and Domestic Violence Task Force led to a database that stores the three essentials judges requested: 911 recordings, improved police reports and photos of the persons injured – all in digital format.
By November, Jasso hopes the city will have completed Las Ramblas at Jefferson Boulevard, a planned plaza-like, outdoor marketplace in the middle of this street. The $1.5 million project will widen the median in the two-block stretch between Zang Boulevard and Bishop Avenue, halving vehicular lanes on the edges to one in each direction. Modeled after Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, the enlargened, ground-level median will allow room for pop-up shops, artists and musicians.
“Ain’t it cool?” an excited and smiling Jasso asks, as she finishes sketching the plaza on my notebook. “We’re hoping we can get piñata sellers, Mexican pottery sellers, flower sellers and food sellers. We want people to want to come here because they can’t find this stuff anywhere else.”
Jasso’s tenacity has led to a seat in numerous community boards and committees, including her appointment by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau Board as vice chair and to the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ Emergency Preparedness Planning Council.
Further proof this Latina gets things done? The National Diversity Council recently named Jasso one of 2013’s Most Powerful and Influential Women of Texas. After receiving the award at NDC’s ceremony April 4, she’ll likely add it to the plethora of others that sit on a credenza located across her work desk. The awards include the 2011 Maura Women Helping Women, 2010 Oak Cliff Chamber
of Commerce Public Servant of the Year and 2008 Texans Can! Mother of the Year.
Considering Jasso’s incessant community devotion and how passionately she converses about future city plans and events, it’s interesting to know city politics weren’t always her priority or end goal. The journalism Southern Methodist University undergraduate departed from her 14-year corporate training career until the younger of her two children went off to college. “The last thing you want is to get into [public office] and shortchange your family because, no matter what, this is not going to be forever – your family is forever,” Jasso says.
The idea to redirect her talent came until she served on the Dallas Parks and Recreation Board from 2002 to 2009. “My eyes were opened to the fact that I could actually help people,” she says. “Accessing City Hall and the political system was something that especially our Hispanic community didn’t know how to do. I felt very strongly that I could be that voice: someone who grew up here, someone who speaks both languages, someone who’s been inside the system of City Hall.”
“Where there’s love, there’s success,” Jasso adds, with a sense of pride in her voice. “The love I have for my community has helped me be a success in the things that I’ve accomplished as an elected official.”
Something tells us this in only the beginning for this powerful and influential Latina.