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Maplewood, Alton elect first Black mayors; Belleville elects first woman mayor in upsets to local incumbents

Maplewood, Alton elect first Black mayors; Belleville elects first woman mayor in upsets to local incumbents

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Voters in Maplewood and Alton made history Tuesday by electing their first Black mayors, unseating incumbents running for reelection. 

And in Belleville, voters unseated an incumbent to elect the city’s first woman mayor. 

The historic results were among four upsets to a handful of incumbent mayors in the region facing election challenges this year. Other mayors prevailed to win another term. 

In O’Fallon, the region’s second-largest city, longtime Mayor Bill Hennessy won a fourth term Tuesday night with a wide lead against four challengers. 

Hennessy prevailed over four challengers with a roughly 13-point lead over the second-place finisher, longtime Councilwoman Debbie Cook.

Three other candidates — Councilman Mike Pheney, community advocate Arnie “AC” Dienoff and political newcomer Paul Carlson — trailed behind Cook by 37 points or more, failing to win vote percentages beyond the single digits.

In Maplewood, progressive challenger Nikylan Knapper unseated Mayor Barry Greenberg to become the city’s first Black mayor and first Black woman mayor.

Knapper, a 41-year-old administrative judge for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and member of the Maplewood-Richmond Heights School Board, defeated Greenberg, a 66-year-old architect, by a 16-point margin, or 366 votes.

“This community is looking towards the future and it wants change that will uplift every resident, every neighbor, every business owner, and I plan to work with the City Council to do just that,” Knapper said.

Her mayoral bid was boosted by endorsements by County Councilwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, and three of Maplewood’s six council members — Jenny Schmidt, Sarah Crosley and Eleanor Pardini.

Across the Mississippi River in Alton, David Goins, a retired police sergeant, pastor and former member of the Alton School Board, unseated Mayor Brant T. Walker.

“I ran a positive campaign to build a broad coalition of supporters of all backgrounds that supported me, worked hard for me and believed me, and I’m grateful to them,” Goins said. 

Walker, a small business owner, was seeking a third term in office after being elected in 2013 in a write-in campaign against then-incumbent mayor Tom Hoechst by fewer than 80 votes.

In Belleville, Mark Eckert, the city’s longtime mayor, lost to political newcomer Patty Gregory by a 14-point margin, or about 700 votes.

Gregory, a former special education teacher, philanthropist and director of the city’s art festival, won 56% of the vote, becoming the city’s first woman mayor. 

Eckert, in a bid for a fifth term in office, won 41% of the vote.

In St. Charles County, Dardenne Prairie Alderman John Gotway unseated Mayor David C. Zucker in a two-way race in the city of about 13,300.

Gotway, a retired Boeing engineer who has represented Ward 3 since 2013, won with a 16-point margin over Zucker, a retired attorney and businessman seeking a second term in office.

In Weldon Spring, longtime Mayor Donald Licklider narrowly fended off a challenge from political newcomer Kate W. Bauer, a 38-year-old interior designer.

Licklider won reelection by a 6-point margin, about 55 votes, securing a seventh term in the city of about 5,400 people.

In St. Louis County, Chesterfield Mayor Bob Nation held off a close challenge from two-term Ward 2 Councilman Ben Keathley, winning reelection to a third term by a 5-point margin, or just under 400 votes.

Nation, 70, won with 50% of the vote. Former councilman Mike Casey trailed behind Nation and Keathley, winning roughly 5% of the vote.

In Creve Coeur, Councilman Robert Hoffman prevailed against Councilwoman Ellen B. Lawrence to succeed longtime Mayor Barry Glantz, who is departing the office after reaching the city’s three-term limit.

Hoffman, a 69-year-old retired pediatrician, defeated Lawrence, a 68-year-old financial consultant, by a 16-point margin, or about 500 votes.

Updated at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday to add information noting historic election results in Alton and Belleville

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Reporter covering breaking news and crime by night. Born in Algeria but grew up in St. Louis. Previously reported for The Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi and at the Wichita Eagle in Wichita, Kansas.

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