The city made history Monday night after Paula Portugal was unanimously named as Paris’ first female mayor. Seeing the council as a team, Portugal said “we will all work together to make Paris a place where our children and grandchildren want to grow up and live.
“All the work I am doing is for the next generations,” she said. “That’s our future and it is bright.”
In regard to Portugal elected as Paris’ first female mayor, she said her grandmother, who was born 120 years ago, “is shouting her encouragement from heaven.”
“She was a strong believer that a woman can do anything a man can do – way before her time,” Portugal said. “My mother showed me how to be a strong, independent woman in a man’s world.”
When Portugal graduated from UT, help wanted ads in newspapers at the time were still labeled as “Help Wanted-Male” and “Help Wanted-Female,” “and a woman dare not cross that line.
“As a third-year teacher, I saw Richardson ISD hire its first female elementary principal,” she said. “Now we see almost as many female superintendents as male. I join all the other strong women leaders in Paris in trying to be a good role model for young girls.”
Now, as Paris’ mayor, Portugal said she is thrilled to be able to give back to the community she was nurtured by for the first 18 years of her life. When she left Paris for UT Austin, she said she would not live in the area again for 46 years.
“When my husband and I retired here in October of 2012, I was surprised at the decline I saw in so many neighborhoods and the poverty I saw, especially in the number of children living below the poverty level,” she said.
Portugal, who plans to be “a mayor for all citizens of Paris,” plans to speak with each council member and tour each district to gain insights on each of their concerns and needs.
“We need neighborhood revitalization, and that is happening all over town right now,” she said. “I would like to see the new building and rehab in more concentrated pockets so the impact is bigger.”
Portugal said she will continue boosting for Paris Economic Development Committee.
“We have a fantastic Board of Directors and Executive Director,” Portugal said. “Good paying jobs will help lift our community out of poverty, and we have some exciting prospects right now.”
She included how beautifying the community is an important component of economic development.
“In order to lure business and industry to Paris, we must put our best foot forward,” she said.
As Julia Trigg Crawford and Portugal reorganized the Keep Paris Beautiful organization in late 2020, she said she hopes to continue working closely with them “to do some long-needed cleanup.”