Today — Thursday, Jan. 1 — marks a new era in county government as 6th District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, is sworn in as county executive.
Stenger defeated his predecessor, Charlie Dooley, in the August Democratic primary, and Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, in the November election to win the county’s top post.
Dooley leaves office after serving as county executive since the October 2003 death of County Executive George R. “Buzz” Westfall.
In 1994, Dooley became the first African-American elected to the County Council, representing the 1st District. He was re-elected to the council in 1998 and 2002.
Dooley also was St. Louis County’s first African-American county executive. He was appointed to the post after Westfall’s death and was elected to serve the remainder of Westfall’s term in November 2004. Dooley then was elected to two full four-year terms in 2006 and 2010.
It’s certainly no secret that we haven’t always agreed with Dooley, but we believe he should be commended for his many years of service to the county and its residents.
However, we find it disappointing that Dooley went out on a sour note, blaming his primary loss on racial fears he said were stoked by Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch over county crime lab corruption allegations.
In mid-December, Dooley released a letter from U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan in which Callahan wrote that a yearlong FBI probe cleared Dooley and other current and former county officials of any criminal charges related to the awarding of a $3.7 million subcontract at the new St. Louis County Police Department crime laboratory to one of Dooley’s appointees on the Board of Police Commissioners.
“I lost the election because of that,” Dooley said, contending McCulloch orchestrated the federal investigation and “played the race card” so Stenger would win the Aug. 5 primary.
That’s certainly not the case, in our opinion.
Perhaps a commenter on the Call’s Facebook page said it best: “… The people who voted him in, voted him out. They were not racists in the beginning nor at the end, just fed up.”
We’ve always considered Dooley a very classy person.
It’s a shame that he is either unwilling — or unable — to accept that he has no one to blame but himself for his primary loss.