South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Jane Dueker challenges incumbent Sam Page in county executive primary

Former assistant attorney general challenging Page
Jane Dueker and Sam Page

Editor’s note: This is a developing article. Continue to check back to for more. 

The St. Louis County Executive Democratic primary on Aug. 2 features incumbent Sam Page and Jane Dueker. 

Dueker is a newcomer to elected office. She has served as assistant Missouri attorney general and was the first female chief legal counsel for a Missouri governor under Jay Nixon. In 2002 she was named chief of staff for Gov. Bob Holden.

When asked why she was running for county executive, Dueker said, “St. Louis County is moving in the wrong direction and I have the most executive experience of anyone who has ever ran for St. Louis County Executive. I am a 30-year career governmental lawyer and consultant professional who has extensive experience in local, state, and federal government … Over the past 30 years, I have developed strong bipartisan relationships in Jefferson City and St. Louis County and am able to collaborate and get things done.”

Page has served as county executive since 2019 after the resignation of Steve Stenger. Page has held several public offices over the years, including as county councilman from 2014 to 2019.

When asked why he was seeking office, Page said, “I went to medical school to help people. I ran for office for the same reason … I’ve led the county through four crises: Cleaning up the mess left by Steve Stenger … managing the COVID-19 pandemic … leading the county toward equity during a civil rights movement and protecting access to safe, affordable and legal abortion. This is no time for on-the-job learning … My experience as a medical doctor and my experience as county executive … make me more suited than my opponents to remain county executive as we move forward.” 

The candidates gave the following responses to The Call’s questionnaire:

What issue do you consider the single most important issue in this race and why? 

Dueker: “The No. 1 issue facing St. Louis County is crime. I have represented law enforcement officials across the region and have a unique understanding of the serious public safety issues facing our county and our region … I will fulfill the promise of Proposition P:  Two officer cars in high-crime areas and build the promised sub-stations in North and South County.”  

Page: “As with any election, the most important issue is who will be the best leader. It’s about who can share their vision for the county, and who can build the diverse coalition we need to make that vision a reality. It’s about who has the experience and the knowledge to keep you and your family safe. It’s about who will work in good faith on your behalf.” 

Do you believe the St. Louis County Planning Commission is responsive to county residents? 

Dueker: “No. I believe there needs to be more community involvement in planning decisions, transparency, more hearings and the lines of communication need to be open. Bottom line is citizens in unincorporated St. Louis County feel unrepresented by county government. There are currently two vacancies on this important commission. That commission needs to be operating at full strength to carry out its mission.” 

Page: “All aspects of county government should be responsive to residents, and the Planning Commission should be no different. While not everyone will be satisfied with every decision, everyone needs equal access and fair process. The voices of South County residents must be heard in the process. Planning Commission members, in which there are three from St. Louis County, serve to balance the concerns of property owners and their neighbors when there is an opportunity for new development and new commerce and jobs.” 

What is your position on incorporation? 

Dueker: “Incorporation is a citizen-driven process that is unnecessary if St. Louis County government is providing the highest quality services to unincorporated citizens.”

Page: “I see no reason for incorporation and several compelling reasons against incorporation at this time. South County is the largest unincorporated area in the county. Unincorporated areas receive police, road, and other ‘municipal’ services from St. Louis County. And the St. Louis County Police Department is the best trained, best equipped police force in the region. We are proud of the service St. Louis County provides and our relationship with the community.”

Will you accept campaign contributions from developers with projects or contracts proposed at the county level? 

Dueker: “No, I will not take campaign contributions from developers who are seeking to contract with St. Louis County Government or are pursuing any county taxpayer subsidies … The county executive should not be negotiating leases or contracts. The appropriate procurement officials, professional departmental staff and/or county counselor’s office should negotiate all leases and contracts.”

Page: “No, I will not knowingly accept campaign contributions from developers with projects or contracts or proposals in front of county offices or the County Council for decision. As the Justice Department taught the county three years ago, it is inappropriate and often illegal for the county executive to negotiate leases or contracts. This should be left to the professional staff without political interference.”

What measures will you propose to encourage economic development in South County?

Dueker: “Most importantly, crime has to get under control. The crime plaguing the St. Louis region is severely hampering economic development efforts. We need to restore the region to being the thriving economic engine of the State of Missouri. The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership has to be overhauled so it can adapt its efforts to spur development in each unique area of the county. I support addressing problem properties to clear the way for more productive development. There has not been a comprehensive development plan for all of the unincorporated areas of St. Louis County. I will devise one and implement it.”

 Page: “… The first step in our economic recovery has been limiting the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We will continue to do that by offering vaccinations and public health information. Ten percent of our CARES Act funding was used for a Small Business Relief Fund – a fund for small businesses to receive grants, including businesses in South County. Now, as American Rescue Plan Act money is distributed, one of my top priorities is job readiness … When I became county executive, I knew we needed to rebuild trust between residents and the government. That’s also true with businesses … My administration understands our role to provide quality customer service, and we are constantly trying to improve communication between the administration and county businesses.”

How will you ensure transparency?

Dueker: “Transparency and cleaning up county government will also be a top priority.  I will call for a complete audit of county government and the spending of all federal funds from the pandemic.  The crony contracts and millions spent on public relations contracts need to be rooted out and turned over to the appropriate authorities. I also support whistleblower charter amendment protections for county employees.  I will also call in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate St. Louis County government top to bottom.”

Page: “When Steve Stenger resigned and went to prison, we had to rebuild trust with county residents. We were starting from less than zero. We immediately requested an audit of the county government … We relinquished unilateral control of the port authority … We incorporated a whistleblower policy, making it easier for people to raise the red flag if they needed to … We created a financial transparency report to make it easier to understand the budget … We hosted several town halls … to get resident input on how ARPA dollars should be spent … Government has a bad habit of sometimes forgetting that its work has to be done in public and that public input is a necessary component.”

Should the SLCPD be defunded? 

Dueker: “Absolutely not. When I’m county executive I will ensure the department is fully funded so we can get back to community policing and I will demand there are two police officers to a car in high-crime areas.”

Page: “I do not believe in defunding the police. I do believe in better funding for services that would allow police officers to do the jobs they are trained to do … The job description of a police officer has changed greatly in the past decade and there are a lot of challenges in our community … Unfortunately, programs addressing those important issues have been unfunded or underfunded … It’s made the job of a police officer much more difficult.”

What do you suggest to improve the relationship between the county executive and County Council? 

Dueker: “We need a new county executive … From politicizing the police chief search, to suing the County Council so his political ally remains council chair … Page has distinguished himself as the most divisive county executive in our history. Transparency and cleaning up county government will be a top priority.”

Page: “If I’ve learned anything from my time in office, it’s that the only actions you can control are your own. I will continue to act in a way that is professional, thoughtful, and driven by the needs of the residents of St. Louis County. I hope that Council members do the same.”

Should the county executive attend County Council meetings? 

Dueker: “Yes. When I am county executive I will attend County Council meetings. Also, I will make county government staff more accessible to the county council. I will also inform the county council and the public which county executive staff members are responsible for which areas of government.”

Page: “Yes. I attend the County Council meetings almost every week, although the county executive is mainly an observer at the meetings, casts no votes, and does not preside over the chamber. During those meetings, I provide a detailed report of the work of my administration over the past week, as well as set policy agendas and discuss the county’s reaction to current events. I know that neither the county executive nor county council can be effective without the other. Both must work together in order to have the best outcomes for the county as a whole.”

Are you satisfied with the direction the county is headed? 

Dueker: “No. St. Louis County is headed in the wrong direction. Again, according to FBI statistics, violent crime in St. Louis County has doubled over the past 10 years and we need a change in leadership. County government is under a current federal criminal investigation with no end in sight. Scandals and mismanagement is plaguing every area of county government.”

Page: “Yes. While no road is without its bumps, my administration has been steadfast in addressing the four crises of the last few years: Cleaning up the mess left by Steve Stenger after he resigned and went to prison; managing the COVID-19 pandemic and its … impacts; leading the county toward equity during a civil rights movement; and protecting access to safe … and legal abortion. Public safety is a priority of my administration, which is anchored in maintaining a well-equipped, well-trained police department … and using other resources to focus on mental health, medical emergencies nuisance properties, and trash.”

What are your thoughts on how the current County Council is operating? 

Dueker: “If you look at the most consistent and productive four-person voting majority currently at the County Council, it really is amazing. You have two Democratic African-American women from North County often joining with two Republican white men from West County working together to provide oversight on the Page Administration, weathering numerous unfounded lawsuits by Page against the council to settle political scores, formulating a budget, whistleblower protections for county employees, just to name a few accomplishments. Rather than using every opportunity to divide the council, I will foster cooperation. The Page administration provides vital information necessary for the council to do their jobs only to his allies … That further sows mistrust and division. The public sees the toxicity and it erodes trust in a government that deals with issues that 99 percent should be non-partisan.”

Page: “I have not always been impressed by the operations of the County Council as a whole, but very impressed by some of the actions of individual members … When members of the council work together with my administration, we’ve gotten some really important things done – like anti-bias laws to protect transgender county employees and contractors, access to abortion and reproductive health services, getting public input on ARPA spending, protecting public health, connecting people to services and extending the PACE program to allow county residents to borrow for clean energy improvements to their homes.”

Are you satisfied with the current state of the county’s assessment process? 

Dueker: “I think the assessment software could be improved so we can avoid unfair results as much as possible.”

Page: “In general, yes. It is a process, like any other, that could probably be improved by spending a lot more money doing it, but the improvements would be small. Assessor Jake Zimmerman, who is on the same ballot I am this year, maintains an open-door policy.”

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