CLAYTON • In St. Louis County, the new year began with faces old and new.
Five elected officials took their oaths of office Tuesday morning in the memorial park behind the county government building at 41 South Central Avenue.
Democrat Jake Zimmerman, re-elected county assessor, wasn’t at the ceremony because his wife was sick and he stayed home to care for their children, according to a county spokesman.
Returning County Executive Steve Stenger took his oath first and in a brief speech, he lauded his administration’s accomplishments, including a prescription drug monitoring program to fight opioid addiction. Stenger also recognized the challenges he’ll face, such as affordable housing, access to basic medical care and unemployment.
“More must be done to address that which divides us,” Stenger said. In the coming months, his administration will launch an equity initiative focused on “transformational” change in those areas, he said.
One of the new faces, Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, was sworn in at midnight by a judge as a part of a New Year’s Eve celebration. He also attended the ceremony Tuesday, where he was sworn in again, and gave a brief speech. As he took the stage, cheers erupted from Bell’s supporters in the audience.
“We’re going to miss you in Ferguson!” yelled an audience member.
Bell, a former Ferguson councilman, unseated Robert McCulloch, who served as St. Louis County’s elected prosecutor for 28 years. Bell’s win was an unexpected one.
“When we look at how we move this region forward ...we can’t do it alone,” Bell said. “You want to go fast, go alone. You want to go far, we have to go together.”
Another new face, Lisa Clancy, D-5th District, continued with the theme of a unified region in a speech after taking her oath.
“To paraphrase part of the Ferguson Commission report, some things that work well here in St. Louis only work for some of us, and when that’s the case it impacts all of us,” Clancy said.
Former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch, a Republican, was also sworn in as councilman for the 3rd District. This is his first term on the council. Mark Harder, R-7th District, took the oath for his second term as a councilman.
Bell, Clancy, Fitch and Harder took questions from reporters after the event. Stenger was with his family and declined to take questions.
The refusal to speak with reporters comes after a rough couple of weeks for Stenger, including budget woes and questions about his influence on St. Louis County Economic Development Partnership operations.