Mayor Stewart Gives Back to the City He Loves

“I never aspired to be a mayor,” said Tommy Stewart, who will soon begin his third term as the city’s leader. “I just wanted to be involved and do what I could do to help the city and do what they called on me to do. And I did, I think.”

Stewart grew up in University Park, first in a home on Colgate where he, his parents, and his brother lived after their father came home from serving in the air force during World War II, then at 4300 Stanford Ave. 

As a child, Stewart, his older brother Bill, and friends ran barefoot through the sawdust covered concrete floor of the cold storage building on the Miracle Mile, trying to see how long they could stay there. “It wasn’t very long,” he said. “It was freezing.” 

The carhop at the Easy Way grill on Lovers Lane knew Stewart by name. He went to Beef N-Bun for barbecue, and Ashburn’s Ice Cream was a popular spot. Stewart and his brother placed pennies and dimes on the railroad track where the toll road is now to see how flat each coin became from a long line of box cars. 

The family moved to a home on McFarlin when Stewart started junior high. He paid a nickel to ride the bus to class, where he loved sports but not chorus. 

 “I had to stay after school and try to sing,” he said.

He played baseball and swam at Highland Park High School, graduating in 1959. Stewart left the area to earn a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin then returned to Dallas after graduation with his wife Barbie, who had been his high school sweetheart at Highland Park.

The couple moved back to University Park when their three children were young. The kids attended University Park Elementary, ate at Beef N-Bun, and liked the chicken fried steak at the Easy Way. 

Stewart, who is still president of Connell Construction Company and vice president of Connell Development Company, became involved in city service around 2000 as a member of the Public Works Advisory Committee. 

He served on the city council from 2010 to 2016 before becoming mayor in 2020 after former University Park city leaders encouraged him to take on the role.

Stewart began his work as mayor during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he faced the challenge of how best to respond to the novel virus. 

His service continued through Winter Storm Uri, when the city responded to 56 water main breaks, all of which occurred in old water mains. The city is replacing those as part of its mile-per-year water and sewer project, and no breaks occurred in the city’s new lines. 

“It shows that the new lines we’re putting in held up well,” he said. “I was proud of that.”

Stewart’s goals include completion of a public safety training facility at a newly purchased building on Fondren, and improvements to the Miracle Mile and Snider Plaza. The work on Snider Plaza is scheduled to break ground in the spring, and Stewart said he hopes the area becomes a place where people will enjoy spending time with each other.

Those connections, Stewart said, help make the city he loves such a wonderful place to live. 

“It’s the people who make it special,” he said. “People care and they associate with their neighbors.”

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