In the already crowded race for Dallas mayor, most pundits call political newcomer Michael Ablon, 53, a longshot. Two longtime Lake Highlands residents, though, say he can count on their votes – and they know the candidate well. Sam and Betty “Bebe” Ablon are Mike’s parents.
I spent time with Sam and Bebe, my former neighbors for nearly 20 years, in their home near Moss Haven Elementary, and they showed me childhood photos of Mike with his sisters Miki and Michaela. They say their son is ready to lead.
“One of the things about him is his colossal energy,” said Bebe. “His day, even when he was little, began at 4:30 a.m. He was always a runner and he always loved sports. He developed very early his own moral code. I’m not suggesting he was a perfect child – nor would his sisters (laughter), but morality was important to him.”
Michael earned degrees in engineering and architecture from the University of Texas and an MBA from Harvard. As principal of PegasusAblon, he reimagined – then transformed – Dallas’ aging Design District from a mishmash of dilapidated warehouses and antique dealers to a today’s vibrant neighborhood. Mayor Mike Rawlings, unable to run again due to term limits, chose Michael to spearhead the public-private partnership now building the 200-acre Harold Simmons Park within the levees of the Trinity River.
“He was very competitive – in school and in sports,” Sam told me. “He always wanted to have the best grades in the class.”
“But he wasn’t the king of the roost,” interjected Bebe. “He had his share of the chores. He took out the garbage and emptied the dishwasher.”
Though they viewed him as a natural leader, Mike’s parents admit they’re still surprised he threw his hat in the ring for Dallas’ highest office. He never even ran for class officer.
“Mike really loves a challenge,” explained Betty. “He could not wait to grow up. He wanted to be in charge of his life.”
She told me about the girlfriend, not long after Michael’s bar mitzvah, who used to call the house 5 times a day. Bebe pushed Mike to persuade the girl to call less often.
“I had a bar mitzvah, and I am a man,” young Mike told his mother, puffing his chest and jutting his chin. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
Again with the laughter.
“Michael has a theory of servant leadership,” said Bebe, turning serious. “His job is to bring people together in a problem-solving way, to put the pieces together. He would not do this if he did not have a plan.”
Sam was raised in Dallas in the family poultry business founded by his grandfather, Ben Ablon – known far and wide as “The Turkey King of Texas.” Ablon Poultry was later sold to Pilgrim’s Pride.
“I asked Mike, ‘Do you really want to do this? Do you realize the commitment?’ He said, ‘Dad, Dallas has done a lot for me and it’s payback time.’ That’s who he is.”
Election Day is Saturday, May 4. Candidates have until February to file, so all candidates are not yet known. Also running are: Civic leader and Clinton White House veteran Regina Montoya, philanthropist Lynn McBee, businessman and former Dallas Housing Authority Albert Black Jr., former Dallas City Attorney Larry Casto and former State Representative Jason Villalba. Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs is expected to run. Dallas City Councilman Adam McGough, a Lake Highlands resident, is reportedly considering a run.