Baebler appointed to Sunset Hills board

By EVAN YOUNG, Staff Reporter

The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen last week approved Mayor Bill Nolan’s appointment of Denetra “Dee” Baebler to fill his vacant Ward 1 aldermanic seat.

The board voted 5-2 on Baebler’s appointment during a special session before its June 8 regular meeting. Ward 2 Alderman Scott Haggerty and Ward 4 Alderman Claudia Svoboda were opposed.

Baebler will serve the remainder of Nolan’s term and said she plans to run for a full term when the seat is up for election next April.

Nolan first submitted Baebler as his appointee May 11, just a few hours before he asked aldermen at a special meeting for their approval. The board voted 6-1 to reject the appointment, with only Ward 3 Alderman Stephen Webb in favor of it.

Aldermen who were opposed later said their votes were not against Baebler herself. They said the mayor didn’t give them enough notice of his appointment and wanted to be more involved with the selection his replacement.

Nolan rejected that idea, arguing that the authority to select an appointee for his old board seat was his alone.

The remaining aldermen can only approve or deny it, he contended.

Before taking another vote on Baebler’s appointment last week, Ward 1 Alderman Frank Hardy asked the Tapawingo subdivision resident a series of questions regarding her views on city issues.

Asked what she believed were three challenges facing the city and how she would meet them, Baebler replied, “I think the top challenge is bringing new business to the city. I’m not sure exactly how to do that, but I’d be willing to investigate, to learn, to do research, to aid in any way I can.”

She added, “I think we need to meet our budget requirements, sell out memberships at the pool — make sure that’s supported.”

Baebler said she currently does a lot of fundraising, helps plan social events in her neighborhood and works part time in her husband’s office. However, she estimated she could devote 40 to 60 hours per week to her duties as alderman.

Hardy asked Baebler what about her background would make her the “best choice” for the board. Besides her organizational abilities and marketing background, Baebler said she is “concerned about the well-being of human beings.”

She said she was against eminent domain and that the use of tax-increment financing and other tax-incentive tools “should be avoided in Sunset Hills if at all possible.”

Baebler said she did not have enough knowledge to answer Hardy’s questions about what areas of the city “would you consider for development or redevelopment” and the types of developments “you would put in those areas.”

She also said she didn’t know enough about the city’s budget to answer Hardy’s question about how the city would pay for maintenance of private streets that became public.

While Hardy acknowledged he’d discussed his questions with Baebler before the meeting, Webb said it was inappropriate to put her on the spot.

“I’m not of the opinion that we should sit here and interview you and grill you from a personal standpoint,” Webb told Baebler. “I believe that’s unfair and disrespectful to some degree to ask some of the questions that Alderman Hardy has asked you. I don’t even know how I would answer some of those questions …

“I’ve made it clear, and that’s why I voted for you the last time, that I have a little bit of faith in the system,” Webb added, contending that most previous appointments in the city have been done in a “pretty simple, straightforward” process. “The trust has been established, where we say: This is a good person. They’ve stood up and volunteered their time and were willing to be a public servant.”

Baebler previously has worked as a contracts administrator at Anheuser-Busch and as a marketing coordinator, contracts administrator and database administrator at architectural firm HOK in St. Louis, among other jobs.

She has done fundraising and other charity work for such organizations as United Way, Friends of Kids with Cancer and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

“I seriously doubt that you’re a bad selection or bad choice,” Webb said. “Obviously when the time comes for voters to make a decision when you run for election, they can do that.”