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St. Louis County Council election features three contested races

St. Louis County Council election features three contested races

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY • The death of a councilwoman and a longtime councilman’s decision not to seek re-election will put two new faces on the County Council, while an incumbent fights to win her party’s nod in Tuesday’s primary.

The election features three contested St. Louis County Council races. One will decide a new council member and the others will determine whose names will appear on the November ballot.

DISTRICT 1

Incumbent Hazel Erby is seeking a fourth term representing this district covering north-central St. Louis County.

Erby, of University City, has two Democratic challengers: Wesley Bell of Ferguson and Alexander Jones Jr. of an unincorporated area of north St. Louis County.

Erby, 68, is the only council member supporting County Executive Charlie Dooley for re-election. She also is a staunch supporter of Dolores Gunn, the county’s health department director who has come under fire for the Edward Mueth embezzlement scandal in her department.

“Those are things that get past you sometimes, and that’s unfortunate,” she said. “But we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

She is proud of her work co-chairing monthly meetings to improve the Normandy School District and her decade of experience in office.

Bell, 39, a lawyer who heads the criminal justice and legal studies departments at St. Louis Community College–Florissant Valley, is Velda City’s municipal judge and Riverview’s municipal prosecutor. He sees a need for change.

“I remember a time when North County was the place to be,” Bell said. “Now it has become a transition for people moving to different places in the county. They’re leaving due to lack of jobs and because our schools are suffering.”

Bell has attacked Erby for voting against an ordinance passed in 2012 that added gender identity and sexual orientation to the county’s anti-discrimination regulations and hate crimes law.

Erby said she is against all discrimination and did not support making a separate classification.

“If anybody from the LGBT community was mistreated or fired from their jobs, or if they weren’t treated the same as anyone else and they were discriminated against because of who they are, I would be at the front of the line fighting for them,” Erby said.

Bell also cited abandoned properties, out-of-town landlords and troubled school districts as problems in the district that he would work to remedy.

Jones, who lost a bid for the District 1 seat in 1998 when he ran as a Republican, could not be reached for comment.

In a response to the Post-Dispatch/League of Women Voters Guide, he said his priorities were to “eliminate and get rid of out-of-control department spending and new vehicle purchases.”

No Republicans filed for the seat in the heavily Democratic district.

DISTRICT 2

The winner of this race between Republican Bob Saettele, a Bridgeton city councilman, and Democrat Sam Page, a former Creve Coeur city councilman and state representative, will fill the seat of the late Kathleen Burkett.

Both candidates said the underground fire at the Bridgeton Landfill and radioactive materials in the adjacent West Lake Landfill were major concerns for the district.

“The health effects are serious and real,” said Page, an anesthesiologist who said his medical training prepared him to handle public-health concerns. “Any decision on what to do with this material needs to be based on science.”

Page, 49, also pledged to work with local, state and federal officials to address issues stemming from Coldwater Creek, which was contaminated decades ago with nuclear waste.

Saettele, 58, an irrigation contractor with a master’s of business administration, promised to push for more economic development along St. Charles Rock Road and for revitalizing Northwest Plaza.

“It needs to be brought back up to par,” he said of the troubled mall. “Its location near the airport is outstanding.”

Both support audits of county departments and agencies.

The term expires at the end of 2016.

DISTRICT 7

Three Republicans are seeking to replace Greg Quinn, who will have held the council seat for more than 24 years when he steps down at the end of his term, in the heavily Republican district in west St. Louis County.

They are Walter Young, former mayor of Ballwin; Mark Harder, a Ballwin councilman; and Adam Paul, the mayor of Ellisville.

All oppose a city-county merger and tax-increment financing and called for an end to “corruption” in the current administration.

All support an audit of St. Louis County departments and agencies. Harder, who is endorsed by State Auditor Tom Schweich, and Young support a state audit while Paul prefers an audit by an independent company.

Young, 67, said he wanted a review of the county’s sales tax pool system, which distributes tax revenues among cities, saying the proceeds are not divided fairly.

He said that he had the time to devote to County Council duties and that his 20-plus years of experience in Ballwin government had equipped him for the job.

“I can work full time and my opponents can work part time,” said Young, a retired computer consultant and Air Force veteran.

Harder, 53, a real estate broker, called for property tax reform, saying he would conduct a review of the county assessor’s office to ensure assessments were fair to save people the headache of appealing unfairly high tax bills.

He also wants to make sure the county is prepared to help senior citizens stay in their homes as long as they can through measures such as making cities comply with provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Paul, 33, a procurement manager, said he gained valuable leadership experience when he successfully opposed a Walmart development that sought tax incentives. That spurred an impeachment process that ousted him from the post before a judge ultimately returned him to office.

If elected, he pledged to weed out unqualified people appointed to boards based on political favors and to dig deeper.

“I don’t care who you are, each county director would go through a thorough review,” said Paul.

Democrat Steven Biggs is unopposed.

To learn more about the Missouri primary elections, visit our Voters Guide at STLtoday.com/votersguide.

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