Leonard Burst dies at 84; former alderman tried to cut number of city wards in half

2012-11-12T23:30:00Z 2012-11-13T14:16:27Z Leonard Burst dies at 84; former alderman tried to cut number of city wards in halfFrom staff reports stltoday.com
November 12, 2012 11:30 pm  • 

Leonard Burst, a former St. Louis alderman who died last week at age 84, was a leading proponent of reducing the size of the Board of Aldermen.

In 1981, he called for a citywide vote to cut the number of wards. But as a Republican in St. Louis, he lacked the clout to even get the measure through the board.

Three decades later and with the support of a Democratic mayor, voters approved a similar plan on Election Day this month to eventually halve the 28 wards to 14.

Leonard Herman Burst Sr. died Nov. 5, 2012, at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in Creve Coeur. He was hospitalized two weeks before his death with a blood disorder and was later diagnosed with a lung infection, his family said Monday.

From 1969 to 1983, Mr. Burst served as alderman for the 16th Ward in southwest St. Louis.

During his first term, he was one of seven Republicans on the board, including the president of the Board of Aldermen, Joseph Badaracco. Mr. Burst replaced Badaracco as 16th Ward alderman.

While still on the board, Mr. Burst ran for comptroller against Ray Percich in 1977 and for aldermanic president against Tom Zych in 1980. He lost both races.

After 14 years as alderman, he was unseated by Jim Shrewsbury, who knocked on the doors of all registered voters in the ward at least once. He beat Mr. Burst by 329 votes out of more than 6,000 cast to become the ward’s first Democratic alderman.

“I’m unemployed,” Mr. Burst said after the defeat, explaining that he also had lost his job as community relations director at Compton Hill Medical Center when it was sold earlier in the year.

After that, Mr. Burst became Republican director at the city Election Board when it was controlled by Republicans. He retired in 1993 when new leadership on the board started to make changes.

He grew up in St. Louis, the son of a traveling salesman. His mother died when he was 8 years old and he was raised by his uncle, Fred Haag, the 12th Ward alderman.

Mr. Burst attended the University of Missouri and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

In 1986, he met Toni Panter on a blind date. She later became his secretary at the Election Board. They married in 1992, his second marriage. In retirement, they moved to the Raintree subdivision of Hillsboro.

Mr. Burst loved to sing, dance and ride horses. His horse died in the dioxin contamination at Times Beach, his family said.

The funeral will be at 10 a.m. today at Chapel Hill Mortuary, 6300 Highway 30, Cedar Hill, preceded by visitation at 9 a.m. Entombment will be at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens.

Survivors, in addition to his wife, include two daughters, Douetta Davis of Beaufort and Lisa Holland of St. Louis County; a son, Leonard “Chip” Burst Jr. of Bloomsdale, Mo.; a stepdaughter, Sharilynn Duncan of Springfield, Mo.; and seven grandchildren.

Michael Sorkin is a reporter at the Post-Dispatch.

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