Kelly Porter’s efforts help make moving naturally around Fort Worth easier and safer for all users.
When you think about the Blue Zones Power 9 principles for health, do you think about how regional transportation planning fits in? Kelly Porter, an assistant director for the City of Fort Worth’s Transportation and Public Works, thinks about the intersections of transportation and health all the time, In fact, he discovered his Power 9 sense of Purpose –– one of the nine principles that increase longevity –– at age 11. “I realized when I was a kid that I loved geography and maps,” Porter said. “In college I always knew I wanted to be a planner, although I started out in the architecture program.” Porter quickly realized that architecture wasn’t what he wanted to do, but says his degree in sociology and geography paved the way for planning.
Born in Fort Worth and raised in Tarrant County, Porter heads the City’s Regional Transportation and Innovation Division, with a focus on creating healthier, safer spaces both on the freeways and off. “My division produces long-range planning around making sure transportation is safe and efficient for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, automobiles, and freight,” he said. But we’re not just talking roads, bridges, and cars. Porter likens his job to Blue Zones’ provision of options to assist people in making healthier choices. “We are creating options for how people get around, whether that’s walking, by bike, or using public transit,” he says. “When you plan, you’re able to make sure you’re giving people the option to make a healthy choice that’s also the easy choice.”
In a way, Porter’s in the business of helping people Move Naturally, which is another Power 9 principle that helps people live healthier lives. “We work with the Economic Development, Planning, and the Parks Department, creating mixed-use and walkable destinations and spaces that everyone can access,” he said. But it’s more than creating a place that people can Move Naturally in. “We need to make the environment safe physically, socially, and mentally as well,” Porter said. “Along with those walkable spaces, we need trees to shade the area, and access to healthy food.” Equity has become a focus for the city of Fort Worth, according to Porter. “Access to healthy food in communities could include new grocery stores, food trucks, fresh food vendors, or community gardens. It’s also about access to safe movement, green space, and fresh air.”
Like many of us, Porter dabbles in ways to improve his personal health, and that includes eating with more of a Plant Slant. “I generally try to focus on a diet that has less processed foods, fruit and veggies, and a lot of water,” he said. “We’re from Texas and we love meat, but I try to focus on fruits and veggies.”
Porter attended Prairie View A&M, which is a public, historically Black land-grant university founded along with Texas A&M and the University of Texas. Porter said that attending the historically Black university helped solidify his Right Tribe –– another Power 9 principle that can lead to a healthier, happier life. “Going (to Prairie View) solidified my sense of self,” he said. “It was an environment where I could learn and grow and completely be seen as a human.” At Prairie View, Porter says he found “a perspective of myself in the world that I don’t get in everyday society – including my history and incorporating that into where I’m going in the future.”
Porter recently moved back to Fort Worth from Austin, and the Fort Worth native says he never stopped loving Fort Worth. “I love the art scene, and the children’s programming at Amon Carter Museum,” he said. “I love the food – you can get anything you want. I like the Southside, and there are businesses like Black Coffee where you can meet with friends.” Moving back to Fort Worth from Austin seemed like a bit of a culture shock, especially for someone who’s lived in some great cities, including Philadelphia and Houston. “I wish we had more transit options and more dense neighborhoods with equity,” he said. Still, Porter finds Cowtown wins on at least one front. “It’s affordable in terms of buying a home,” he said. “I lived in Philly, Houston, and Austin – it felt like you could never make enough to own a house.” Porter says that DFW International Airport “makes me feel globally connected,” and that Fort Worth is easy to navigate if you don’t have a car. “I can take the train and get downtown in 40 minutes or less,” he said. “I can catch Amtrak to Austin or San Antonio, and that four-hour trip is competitive with driving down Interstate 35.”
Another Power 9 principle is Family First, and that’s what brought Porter back to Fort Worth. “I left Austin to help take care of family –– it’s been a cool opportunity to spend time with my father,” he said. While a return to Fort Worth was probably always in the cards –– Porter says he had plans to retire here –– his earlier-than-anticipated return is great so far. “I’m back here at an exciting time in the city’s history,” he said. “We have a new mayor, a much younger city council, and it feels like we’re hopefully becoming more of the Modern West.”