The El Paso Mayor Race of 1969

In 1969, Mayor Judson Williams did not seek reelection for a fourth term and resigned before the completion of his term. Peter DeWetter was elected to succeed Williams in 1969.

DeWetter came to El Paso in 1951 and started his own storage business. DeWetter was president of Ok Van and Storage Co, El Paso Terminal Warehouse Inc, El Paso Cartage, and American Ensign Van Service.

Williams served as president of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce and was one of the original directors of the Board of Mental Retardation and served as chair of the city plan commission.

DeWetter was the establishment favorite, his two opponents, insurance man Ed Lang and attorney Bert Williams, ran against the establishment and their campaign had incorporated some populist principles. Both ran against the establishment, appealing to the “average folks,” promising equal representation, and vowing to help the poor. But so did  DeWetter, who countered his opponent charges that he was the candidate of the Kingmakers and that he not only represent the rich or businessmen but said  that he would help and talk to everybody. In DeWetter’s platform he promised his administration would be one of  responsiveness and it would stand for progress and the people. He pledged to form a Mayor’s Committee on Social Action, this committee would have members from all parts of the community who worked to improve conditions in blighted areas and renovations of slum conditions. Williams promised to appoint a council for the youth. Williams ran a strong campaign with a full ticket composed of four candidates for alderman. All except one was elected. Voters elected Independent candidate Tony Petry to the city council.

Bert Williams, who served as a park and rec alderman and also served as an assistant El Paso County Attorney, grew up in South El Paso and spoke Spanish fluently. He helped passed a law to desegregate public buildings in El Paso. Williams was running as an Independent with no ticket. He wanted to end the El Paso Chamber of Commerce’s influence in El Paso. His message to voters was that it was time for more studies or committees  for action. Williams vowed to improve housing and improve the conditions in South El Paso. Williams also wanted to enforce air pollution laws. Ed Lang was regional director of the  Lamar Life Insurance and had run for mayor two times against Judson Williams. Lang might have been a spoiler for Williams because they held similar views and appeals to similar groups. Lang vowed to bring fiscal responsibility by putting the needs of working class people above all special self-interest groups. Williams won a close race, narrowly avoiding a runoff.

Joseph Longo

EPHS Curator

Since 1954 the El Paso County Historical Society has been a driving force in the historic scene of El Paso. EPCHS strives to foster research into the history of the El Paso area; acquire and make available to the public historic materials; publish and encourage historical writing pertaining to the area; and to develop public consciousness of our rich heritage.