Fran Hawes And The Race for District One
Fran Hawes has been a Denton resident for more than ten years and applied to run for Denton City Council during the last week to file for candidacy. After filing, the only information immediately available about Hawes was bleak. In addition to what she provided the city secretary when applying to run for council, one of her jail records was easily accessible online.
It is currently undetermined who or if anyone will tell Hawes she cannot run for city council. According to Title 9, Chapter 141 in the Election Code, Hawes' felony conviction may disqualify her for running for council.
“The city secretary reviews and qualifies applications on their face; the role of the City is not to investigate claims of ineligibility,” the Denton Record-Chronicle reported that city spokeswoman Lindsey Baker wrote via an email.
Hawes is more than her former conviction, though, which she claims to be a misunderstanding. She is a caretaker to her loving wife of 27 years, she is the youngest of ten children born to two loving parents from New Jersey, she is a graduate from Berklee, and she is a passionate member of her community.
“Surprisingly, Denton is not as evil as some parts of Texas can make you feel. You don’t feel that here,” she says. “I’ve moved closer to the square and taken advantage of what’s available to me. I’m very happy to be surrounded by black people; it’s comforting.”
While we’re at it, she prefers to go by Fran. “Frances was my grandmother, and I’m not as badass as she was; I’m not there yet.”
“I started becoming interested in politics in high school,” Hawes says. “I met Sargent Shriver in the 6th grade when he was running for Vice President in 1972.
“I asked him ‘what are you going to do for the black and Puerto Rican children of America?’ He wouldn’t answer me, so I kept asking him. Apparently, it made our local papers.”
Born in Passaic, New Jersey, Hawes lived there until she graduated high school. She then moved to Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music, where she graduated in 1980 with her degree in vocal arrangement. “I went to the best jazz school in the world,” she said. “I went there so I could be better at participation in my church choir.”
During college, she befriended some renowned musicians such as Adam Brenner and David Cole. Cole was a music producer and was one-half of C + C Music Factory. “It was rumored that he arranged Whitney Houston’s ‘I’m Every Woman’ for me,” Hawes said.
“I never wanted to go into music professionally. I’ve always been interested in politics. I’ve always been a rebel,” she says.
“After I had left Boston, I came back to New York and moved in with an ex-girlfriend in Brooklyn before I went back to Jersey, and then back to New York again,” she said. “Women helped determined where I was going to stay,” she chuckled.
“If I was living in the city, I had to get a job, and that’s when I started working two jobs,” she said. “That’s when things got out of hand. I was kind of naive to what was really happening.”
Hawes then decided to join the army. “I was the first African American female in my platoon, and I was an honor graduate of my AIT class,” she said. “I still suffer from PTSD attached to the Berlin bombing.” She was in Berlin when the bombing that took place at the La Belle discotheque in 1986. Hawes was later honorably discharged from the army after 19 months of service.
Very open about her past, she shared that she received a DUI in January of 2009. “I’ve been arrested a bunch of times,” she says. “Every problem I’ve ever had has been in Denton or Denton County.” Hawes in currently on probation for a possession charge from three years ago.
“I was walking home and a guy that I knew asked me if I wanted a ride,” she says. Hawes gladly took the ride and said that her friend went to put a baggie in between the fold of the passenger side seat when she got in, missed, and accidentally placed the baggie in the back of her pants. They got pulled over in Hickory Creek, and Hawes was arrested.
“The police officer asked me if I wanted to sign an affidavit saying that the kid gave the baggie to me,” she said, “I told him that they found it on me.” She said that she didn’t know what the substance was when she was arrested. She was arrested for a previous warrant for a ticket she had in Denton, not for the controlled substance that she was later charged with.
“The police officer said, ‘Fran, this is a felony!’ and I said, ‘will I still be able to vote?’” The police officer told her that she could still vote after she completed her sentence and probation. “As long as I am able to vote, that’s all that matters.”
Hawes says they arrested her in August of 2013, she wasn’t charged until May 1, 2015, and didn’t finish going to court for her charges until March of 2016.
“If I had known that they could have just given that little boy a ticket, I would have told them it was his,” she said. “If I knew what it was, I would not have willingly put it on my person.”
She was in shock. The arrest put Hawes in serious distress.
“I was able to get help. I found a good doctor here at MHMR, and she was able to help me. We’ve been going pretty strong for the last three years. As you live, you learn different coping mechanisms for different things,” Hawes says.
For now, Hawes is focused on the local issues.
One thing she’s concerned about is the lack of sidewalks along the streets in her district. “I watch so many people walking or riding [their scooter] in the street because there is nowhere else to walk.” She says she is noticing a growing amount of homeless people in Denton. Hawes volunteers at the Salvation Army, where she stayed while she was temporarily homeless. "Even if I wasn't court-mandated, I'd want to be here," Hawes said. She volunteered for the Salvation Army prior to living there and being court mandated, though.
She also thinks Denton needs to be investing more in our youth. “No offense to the MLK Center. I am really grateful that is here, and I see how that is a remarkable place for the youth in the area - but I don’t think it should be the only one, especially in this district.”
This past weekend, Hawes walked through Mayhill and up McKinney, introducing herself to different residents.
“If someone else wins and I do not, I will be more than consummatory and jump in and help with whatever they need,” she says. “It’s about making it better for everyone," she said.
Hawes will be in attendance at the City Council Candidate Debate hosted by The Dentonite on April 13, 2017, at Backyard on Bell.
Photos by Adrian Samano and courtesy of Fran Hawes
Header image design by Sara Button