By Ralph Echtinaw
The mid-term elections are history, but St. Louis voters will be asked to replace two retiring city council members in November 2019.
Two of the five positions on city council are on the ballot this year, and the incumbents, Jerry Church and Melissa Allen, have said they will not seek re-election.
If you would like to get your name on the ballot you can start by picking up petitions at city hall anytime. You will need 26 signatures of registered voters who live in the city on your petition to get on the ballot. However, Clerk MariAnne Ryder recommends getting 30 signatures to be safe, as some may turn out to live outside the city limits or not be registered voters.
The filing deadline is 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 23.
City Council members are paid $700 per year and $35 per meeting.
Jerry Church has served on the council since 2000 and Melissa Allen since 2004.
“Jerry Church is a well known man with a fantastic background and insight into city matters,” said Councilman George Kubin via email. “He worked for the city electric department early in his career. Jerry and Sally owned the local Paint Pantry store, and Jerry was a firefighter for years. He retired from Dow Chemical. His wisdom, insight and experience cannot be duplicated. Jerry is well respected and known in the community and many residents have come to him with issues and insight about city operations.”
Kubin was instrumental in recruiting Melissa Allen to run for city council in 2003. “My first city interaction with Melissa for the city was when she volunteered to be on a brownfield redevelopment committee,” he said. “The committee helped with the development of the Extreme Car Wash and the Discount Tire sites among others. Melissa had a reputation as a great realtor and a caring Christian person. It was easy to see how motivated and positive thinking she was. I ask her if she would run for council to serve our city. Was very pleased when she ran and won. Melissa is great at asking the right questions and looking for ways to make the city better. Will miss her always positive attitude and genuine concern for the community.”
Allen herself had this to say:“I cannot deny that being a council person is more challenging than I ever expected. Getting involved is very rewarding with the knowledge one gains. There’s a lot happening behind the scenes, and difficult decisions being made every day. The council members I’ve enjoyed serving with have all brought different strengths, knowledge and history to our discussions with respect for one another even when we disagree. Next year will bring two new faces to the council, and I hope, as a group, they will continue with open minds and ears to listen, rolled up sleeves ready to work, a humbleness to ask questions and a strength to voice one’s opinion. We live in a city I’m proud to be a citizen of. We’re not perfect but we stride to improve always.”
Asked to explain what new council members can expect, Allen said, “The time involved is one to three hours per meeting (twice a month), and the time to read through the meeting packet and prepare is one to two hours per meeting. Once in awhile special meetings are required, which were frequent through the Velsicol trial. That is not including the involvement in other committees, and most of us find ourselves on more than one. The city prefers to have at least one council member sit on each of the standing committees. Each additional committee could add two to four hours a month in preparation, communication and meetings. If anyone is considering the position, I suggest they start attending our two monthly meetings and get a start on the topics at hand. It’s taken me a good portion of my 15 years to have a decent handle on what issues/challenges face us. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be able to jump right in and easily contribute without having some background. With only five seats on our council each voice is important. A persons decisions are best settled on when they are informed.”
Kubin has advice for new council members, too: “In my opinion the only qualifications to be a council member are living in the city limits and a desire to make our community a better place,” he wrote. It is wonderful when we have a mix of retired and working people. I wish we could get some younger people interested. New members are full of fresh ideas and insight.”