This is a “blast from South County’s past” from the past 30 years of the Call’s archives. Originally published on: Thursday, March 7, 1996. Stay tuned throughout the year for more glimpses into the area’s history.
By Mike Anthony
Blondes have more fun, the saying goes, but three Mehlville Board of Education members recently found the prospect of one of their own in a blonde wig a little hairy.
The three school board members – Secretary Dan Fowler, Candy Green and Kurt Witzel – met last week with Washington School District Superintendent Jerry Chambers, who recently was offered the superintendent’s post here, but declined it.
The four were socializing Feb. 28 at Caleco’s Restaurant on Tesson Ferry Road when they say their gathering took a turn for the “bizarre” or as Witzel put it: “It was a weird deal.”
Seated at a table right by the door at the front of the restaurant, the four were talking when the public address system announced a telephone call for Chambers. Chambers remarked that was odd because no one knew he was at the restaurant.
That call was from Call Newspapers President Bill Milligan, who had received an anonymous telephone call that four board members, Chambers and Mehlville Superintendent Bob Rogers were meeting at the restaurant. Chambers informed Milligan that he was socializing with three board members. As Chambers returned to his seat, the public address system then announced a telephone call for Rogers, which Witzel said was “really strange because he’s not even here.”
But the situation then became even more odd when Fowler said, “There goes (board member) Jan Polizzi dressed in disguise with a blonde wig and a scarf.”
Polizzi, a brunette, was wearing a blonde wig when she walked in front of the restaurant, the four said.
“‘Oh my God,’ I said,” Witzel recalled.
“It was so obviously her, with a blonde wig and a scarf,” Green said.
The three board members decided to invite Polizzi to sit with them and Green went outside the restaurant to get her. “I said, ‘Jan, come back and have a drink with us.’ She starting running.”
Green said Polizzi ran through the parking lot, across the street, got into her car and drove away. “What in the world did she think she was catching us doing?” Green asked. “It was just very weird. We just roared. How could you not laugh?”
When contacted by the Call, Polizzi confirmed that she had walked by the restaurant that day. “I had a blonde wig on,” she said.
“Dan Fowler knows I have a blonde wig. I used to joke with him about it. How can I disguise my face?”
She’s had the wig “for years. I used to wear it in Jefferson City,” said Polizzi, a former state representative. “It was useful” to avoid lobbyists, she added.
Polizzi went to the restaurant because “I heard a rumor. I went there to validate a rumor.” She had heard that four board members – a quorum of the board – were meeting with Chambers.
“I didn’t know what to think. I don’t believe rumors,” Polizzi said, adding she wanted to check out the situation firsthand.
But she saw just the three members. “I saw nothing illegal going on,” Polizzi said.
Asked why she didn’t join the other three board members, Polizzi said she was afraid the board would be violating the state’s “Sunshine Law” if a quorum of the board gathered at the restaurant with Chambers.
But “informal gatherings of members of public governmental body for social or ministerial purposes where there is no intent to avoid the Sunshine Law are not public meetings,” states a publication from Attorney General Jay Nixon.
And the gathering was “purely social,” Chambers told the Call. He noted that he has signed a contact extension with the Washington Board of Education. “In in Washington to stay,” he said.
Fowler, Witzel and Green said the gathering had been organized by a Central Office secretary at Chambers’ request to thank the board members for their support. The decision to hire Chambers as superintendent was 4-3 with those three board members and John Mikolay voting to hire him. Opposed were Polizzi, President Gloria Brazell and Vice President Wayne Hilzinger.
Fowler, Witzel and Green said they were embarrassed by the incident at the restaurant. “To have one of our board members dressed in a blonde wig. I was embarrassed,” Fowler said. “I was never more embarrassed in my life. It made me sick. My evening was ruined.”