Sentinel owner, incumbent councilman are the sole candidates for 3 city offices this year

By Ralph Echtinaw

A lack of candidates for St. Louis City Council gives a golden opportunity to write-in candidates this year.

The filing deadline came and went Tuesday, April 25, with only incumbent Councilman Bill Leonard and yours truly turning in petitions to run. Leonard, 77, seeks re-election after a successful first term. While this reporter, 63, is the sole candidate for mayor. Councilman Roger Collison and Mayor Tom Reed chose not to seek re-election.

Two council seats and the mayorship will be on the ballot in November.

To become a write-in candidate, one need only file a “Declaration of Intent” document with the city. Then it’s merely a matter of asking voters to write your name on their ballots. Theoretically, you could win a seat on the city council with just one vote.

Bill Leonard background

Leonard is still working at age 77 while most men his age are retired. He tried retirement briefly in 2013 after ten years as an adjunct professor of construction management at Montcalm Community College and didn’t like it. Current County Treasurer Terri Ball helped Leonard get a job with the county that includes building inspection and soil and sediment control. He reported directly to County Administrator Tracey Cordes until her retirement in February.

Leonard’s other professional experience includes four years in the Navy (1965-69), building repair (a.k.a. Your Handyman Bill), chairmanship of the St. Louis Zoning Of Board of Appeals (for the last 20 years), chairman of the Cemetery Board, St. Louis Housing Commission member (for last 10 years) and Construction Board of Appeals member.

Four years ago he ran for city council and received more votes (176) than any other candidate.

“I have sincerely enjoyed my last term of four years with the council,” Leonard wrote. “I have been able to make significant changes to policy that resulted in cost cutting measures and enchantment to the city. Moving forward I will stay on task, saving citizens money and voting in what I feel is the best interest of public.”

Ralph Echtinaw background

This reporter grew up in Rochester, Mich., served six years in the Navy (1977-83), got a bachelor’s degree from Oakland University (1988) and worked as a newspaper reporter for 13 years before moving to Gratiot County in 2001.

I started two businesses then; one a Quixotic sports photography venture, the other a window cleaning enterprise that still pays the bills.

The sports photography business was a cash pygmy (as opposed to a cow), but I kept it going until 2018. The window cleaning business is called “I Feel Your Pane.” I have 100 business customers in St. Louis, Alma, Ithaca, Breckenridge, Merrill and Hemlock. If you live in St. Louis or Alma you’ve probably seen me working at some point.

Having founded the St. Louis Sentinel in December 2017, I’ve attended all but a handful of city council and school board meetings in the subsequent five years. The Sentinel doesn’t make enough money to be profitable. But I enjoy the work and tentatively plan to keep publishing if elected mayor in November.

My idea of what a small-town council should do is primarily oversight of the administration. City Manager Kurt Giles, et. al., are professionals who are familiar with the minutia of their jobs. No one currently on city council (or me either) are qualified to be the city manager, public services director, finance director, DPW superintendent, Electric Department foreman, etc. However, city officials aren’t directly responsible to voters like those on the council are. 

So council members frequently must decide just how much property owners can stand in terms of increased fees/taxes and spending. For example, last year council rejected an administration proposal to build a specialized dome to store road salt because the cost was going to be $275,000.

City council needs to question administrators on what they propose. Once they have all the information they can weigh the benefits against the drawbacks and make a decision. Micromanaging the city is not among the duties of the city council, and that’s a good thing. Administrators should be free to do their jobs.

Election turnout

The last time the city had an election was November 2021 when 328 out of 2,800 registered voters cast ballots.

Mayor Tom Reed was the highest vote getter (288). Incumbent Councilman George Kubin (243), Liz Upton (217) and the late Donald Dean (110) were the other candidates.

This year’s election has the potential to be more impactful, as a write-in candidate could be elected with just a handful of votes. 

If you’d like to be a write-in candidate ask City Clerk Jamie Long for a “Declaration of Intent” document, fill it out, turn it in, and voila, you’re a candidate!

All you need to do then is ask family and friends to vote for you. If you have more family and friends than the other write-in candidates you will win!

Financial compensation

The mayor gets $1,200/year and $35 for each meeting attended. Council members get $700 a year and $35 for each meeting attended.

Categories: Uncategorized

5 replies »

  1. Mayor! Sole Candidate? When is the election Mayor Echtinaw? Need a contribution?
    Your old shipmate 78-80. USS Prairie AD-15


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