A Story of Transformation
Filled with heartache, hustle, oppression and overcoming
Less than a decade ago, Brianna Chacón started over.
She closed the chapter on a turbulent marriage, moved into a new house with her children, changed careers, helped plant a church, and — most recently — she became the mayor of Princeton, Texas.
Chacón’s story is one of heartache and hustle, oppression and overcoming. To some, she may look like an overnight success, but I would venture to say she’d call it the longest ‘night’ of her life. Her path meanders before it abruptly straightens, and it has taken her across many a terrain — from Garland, the University of Texas, Princeton, and many places in between.
During the early years of her career, Chacón worked in geology and often found herself gone for weeks at a time — climbing mountains, charting ranges, and measuring seismic activity. But with her young family’s growing needs, she soon realized that this career path would not be a sustainable option. “I finally accepted that I could like rocks, but I didn’t have to work with them,” she noted resolutely. Nevertheless, the career pause required some introspection in order to determine her next steps. All the while, her marriage was coming to an end, and the boiling point was imminent.
“I asked myself, ‘Who am I? How am I going to define myself?’” she wondered. She always wanted to be somebody, she said, and with her heart that beats for her fellow human beings, she felt a burden to somehow be of service to her neighbors and community, though she didn’t yet know what that would look like.
She views that period of her life as a metamorphosis. The existential questions that flooded her soon evolved into a sense of hope: She could do anything. “It was my second lease on life,” Chacón said.
Her entrepreneurial knack evident, Chacón had several successful business ventures, including an Uber-type model for kids who lived too close to school to ride the bus but too far to walk before venturing into real estate.
Her father, Floyd Stevenson, a beloved member of the real estate community, thought she had the chops to make it in the industry. “My dad always told me I should go into real estate, and because he told me to do it, of course I didn’t want to,” she laughed, but thanks to her dad’s persistence, she did eventually come around to the idea in 2018.
It was her dad, too, who convinced her to move to Princeton from Garland after his experience working in one of the first subdivisions in Princeton, and seeing how affordable the cost of living was. That was 16 years and practically a lifetime ago. The culture shock from suburbia to country living was real and jarring. Back then, Chacón was newly married with a young family, and was about to embark on the journey of her life. And it was none other than her dad who spurred her on when she almost quit.
In August of last year, Chacón was at the dentist when she got an unexpected call from a friend that opened the door to a whole new world. “She told me, ‘Hey, you need to run for mayor.’” Initially, the idea was laughable — so laughable, in fact that Chacón turned to Facebook to make a joke about it. “I wrote as a joke on Facebook that maybe I should run for mayor. Well, then it blew up. I got tons of calls telling me I should do it.” She began to deliberate, but the clock was ticking — it was the last day to file an application. Applications due at 5 pm, Chacón submitted hers at 4 pm.
This was exactly one day after she found herself feeling emotionally achy, working not to become overwhelmed at the brokenness of the world. She instead began to channel that ache into prayer — she wanted to help. “I cried over the despair of the world, but then I began to pray for an opportunity to do something helpful.”
Chacón launched her campaign the next day with no endorsements and no funding. “It was a boots-on-the-ground effort,” she recalled, an “I’m-your-neighbor” campaign. Wasting no time, she began asking her friends and neighbors about their perceptions of the town’s shortcomings. Where were improvements most needed? “People ask why I got into politics,” Chacón began. “Well, I didn’t! I’m not a politician. I’m just a person sick and tired of the status quo who wanted to do something about it.”
Joking that it’s not uncommon to find her at City Hall, problem-solving infrastructure issues in her leggings, she reiterates that she is simply a mom who understands the struggles of her constituents. Many of her days are spent at the city baseball complex, shoulder-to-shoulder with other parents, hearing both their frustrations and dreams for their city. “These fields are holy ground for my family and me,” Chacón said, adding that at least one of her children took their first steps there at the fields with the iconic Princeton water tower in the background. With hot metal bleachers for a platform, she seized every opportunity to connect with and hear from her fellow residents.
Chacón won the election by a landslide, by the way, with support from demographics across the board. But not long after the results came in, she received a call notifying her that there was a hiccup in the vote-counting, and that maybe she didn’t actually win. A third candidate had split the points, meaning she didn’t quite receive 51% of the votes. After filing an appeal with the Secretary of State, however, the issue was resolved, and Chacón said she now likes to tell people that she’s the only mayor to win twice in one day.
Not surprised that she won by a landslide, as my own perception of Chacón is she holds a charismatic aura which naturally draws people to her.
We loaded into her car as Chacón recounted the onset of the realization that she was now charged with tackling issues like road construction and economic growth. The gravity of her responsibilities settled on her like a heavy blanket.
Even still, it takes more than charisma to lead people through a crisis, and Chacón has had more than one opportunity to prove herself. In addition to carrying the community through Covid, she also faced the historic winter storm in February. In the way disasters often do, the storm brought out the best in everyone, Chacón said. When the whole town (apart from the school campuses) lost power, volunteers from all walks of life emerged, and Chacón was right there with them. Turning the schools into warming stations, volunteers rallied to provide three meals per day to all residents with some even delivering to snowbound neighbors. “We could’ve left and headed to Allen to find a warm hotel,” Chacón said. “But I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything I’m not willing to do, so I froze with my neighbors to help out neighbors.” She also partnered with nearby fire departments and the city’s Walmart super center to provide heaters, blankets, and other supplies to vulnerable residents.
As for her long game, she’s focused on bringing more businesses to Princeton and bolstering the local economy, expanding the food program she recently launched, and turning Princeton into a “smart” city by implementing advanced technology and optimization tools. This is all done, she added, with the help of a solid city manager and a great team of devoted city officials. Chacón is also shifting the culture within city government by encouraging citizens to get more involved, to speak up, and to assume leadership positions. “I’m a people-watcher,” she continued. “I see people’s hearts for their community, I see where people’s talents are, and I don’t hesitate to call them up and encourage them to get involved with us in local government.” Chacón is proud that the face of leadership is already more diverse since she took office in November.
Chacón is campaigning now for the next election, and for the first time in our conversation she brought up the negative side of running for public office. Her email and social media accounts were hacked, and jarringly, she cited menacing phone calls and even death threats she received during her first campaign. It caused her to question whether she was cut out for this lifestyle.
She remembered calling her dad and telling him she was going to bow out of the race. “He came over and comforted me, but then asked if I was done crying and said, ‘Now go show them who you are.’ That’s why I kept going,” she said. Her dad, loved by everyone who knew him, passed away in March, and when considering whether another cycle through the election wringer was worth it, she said, “Of course I’m running again. I can’t let my dad down.”
When she’s not strategizing the future of her city, she’s likely showing houses and helping residents find their dream homes. She learned from our friends at Simply Texas Real Estate and put her skills to the test immediately, finding it to be a natural fit for her personality and talents. She has more business right now than in the previous two years combined, and she finds immense fulfillment in her client relationships.
It turns out her dad was right — she does have the chops to succeed in real estate. Chacón has not altogether dismissed a future in politics. She’s got a knack for it too, and she loves it for the same reason she loves real estate — she gets to have a profound, personal impact on the quality of people’s lives. It’s also why she helped to plant a church in November — right around the time she took office. It’s grown from about 30 people to nearly 200, and it’s but another hub of connection, service, and diversity within the community of which she’s so fond.
The old adage goes something like, “If you need something done, ask the busiest person in the room,” and that certainly applies to Mayor Chacón. She is nothing if not a go-getter who gets things done. “I don’t take no for an answer,” she stated. “I won’t settle for anything less than the best for my city and for my clients. That’s what makes me a good mayor AND a good realtor.”
Her past life spent in geology makes more sense than ever, as there is no one better suited to measure the seismic activity of the current culture, to navigate the rocky terrain of a polarized political climate, or to mediate between a historically diverse group of leaders. The mountains Chacón climbs now might look different than those from years ago, but she continues to model fearlessness in the face of new heights, and no matter where she ends up, it’s plain to see that the community of Princeton will be better for the mark she’ll leave on it. Contact Chacón at 214.907.0553 or Brianna@gosimplytexas.com