Meet the candidates: Blackshear hopes to bring togetherness as mayor of Denison

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat

Political Newcomer Matt Blackshear hopes to bring a sense of unity and togetherness to the city of Denison is he is elected to the city's highest seat. Blackshear is among three candidates who are vying for the title of mayor of Denison for the city's May 1 election cycle.

Blackshear will be facing against Albert Gilberti and Denison Mayor Janet Gott, who is seeking a second term as mayor. The May 1 elections will also see another seat of the Denison City Council up for grabs, with no incumbent in the race.

Blackshear said he has worked in several fields over the years, including the medical field and filmography, but described himself primarily as a musician and comedian. Blackshear has performed in several local venues, including shows at the Rialto and The Railyard Food Hall. 

"I've been doing stand-up comedy for 20 years now, since I was 15 and I've been playing music — piano and guitar — for 20 years," Blackshear said. "That's where most people know me."

While Denison is his hometown, Blackshear said he has lived in many cities including Los Angeles and New York. Despite that, he has always been drawn back to North Texas.

"This is just home, I love this place and want to see it grow," he said.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected Blackshear's work along with much of the entertainment industry. The changes gave him time for introspection and self-assessment, he said.

"When you stop doing what you were made to do, you get to reflect and who I am as a person was really brought to my attention," he said.

Despite an interest in the community, Blackshear said he never had an interest in serving in politics. The closest he had come was serving on community art boards and organizations in Dallas and Las Colinas.

"That's (politics) something I could take to the stage and joke about," he said. "I'd  make it funny or write a song about it, then I could make it sad."

The spark came from a friend who encouraged him to run for office and make the changes in the community he would like to see rather than waiting for someone else to do it for him.

"At first I thought, 'Well, that sounds cool.' I could probably win in Denison because so many people know me, but I don't know if that's my identity," Blackshear said. 

A week later, Blackshear's friend was hospitalized and ultimately passed away earlier this year. Blackshear said his run for mayor is in her honor and memory.

If elected Blackshear said he would push for initiatives that would encourage inclusiveness and unity within the community — something that has been on the decline for nearly a decade.

"In the past decade, we've experienced a lot of division, especially with the internet and how quickly it has grown," Blackshear said.

Many members of the community would be more involved if they felt more included as a part of Denison, Blackshear said. One way to start this effort would be to increase diversity in the types of acts that play during Music on Main, he added.

Blackshear said he would also like to support initiative that encourage development and growth within downtown. There are many prospective business owners who would like to open in downtown, but are concerned that the city's focus is elsewhere. 

Possible programs could include a rebate on property taxes for new businesses that operate in downtown, Blackshear said.