Photo courtesy of Gay Donnell Willis.

Gay Donnell Willis has a background in corporate communications and has served on the boards of nonprofits and city commissions and committees. She’s the president and CEO of the Turtle Creek Conservancy, and she works with different city departments every week. 

“I think I come in with a more granular level of knowledge about what it’s like to work with the city of Dallas and where things seem to be going well and areas where we could do better,” she says. 

How to spend $10 million 

Donnell Willis would fix streets and alleys that are not accounted for in the 2017 bond. For example, there are some streets near the western border of the district that have potholes and flood easily. 

Thoughts on the city’s efficacy in responding to the pandemic and winter storm

There wasn’t adequate preparation or coordination on the part of the city, county and state governments to respond to crises like the pandemic and the winter storm, the city council candidate says. 

In February, council members scrambled to collaborate with local nonprofits to get resources to their constituents. 

“We should already know what the county’s role is going to be as our steward of our public health, what the state’s role is going to be and then where the city can augment or be prepared or use the network that we have to ensure communications are happening and so that all we have to do is press play and respond, versus create the plan as we’re going along,” she says. 

Something the city council has done right

The city piloted two RIGHT Care teams and later evaluated their impact on the community. This allowed them to push for six teams, which can be further assessed and improved.


A city council member can work closely with the city manager to call for accountability and assess performance of the police department, Donnell Willis says.

While much of the police budget remains the same from year to year, Donnell Willis says she would make any additions or changes to the budget based on what the police are expected to do and what the community needs. Police officers should focus on their “core competency” and allow other experts, such as those who specialize in helping with mental health, substance abuse or homeless individuals to step in when appropriate.

Hidden gems in District 13 

Parks within the district that have potential to be improved and become “not so hidden,” such as Marcus Park and Preston Hollow Park

What she’s reading 

“The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World,” by Kurt Kohlstedt and Roman Mars 

Who inspires her 

Women such as Mary Wilonsky and Trisha Cunningham who lead nonprofits and work hard to provide valuable services to the community, even though they don’t always receive the credit they deserve. 

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.