Dooley assumes reins in Westfall’s absence

By Alyson E. Raletz

County Councilman Charlie Dooley does not plan on making any administrative changes during his interim service as county executive — he just wants George R. “Buzz” Westfall to get better.

The County Council last week unanimously selected Dooley, a Democrat from north county, to serve temporarily as county executive because of Westfall’s hospitalization and inability to perform administrative duties.

The county executive has been experiencing back problems for years and when he checked in to Christian Hospital Northeast two weeks ago, doctors discovered he was suffering a severe staph infection.

Westfall spokesman Mac Scott said Oct. 13 that Westfall was heavily sedated and unaware of his surroundings.

The following day, Scott said Westfall was upgraded to serious condition from critical and was still sedated.

“He continues to improve,” Scott said. “But there’s no way to know how long it will take for him to recover.”

At the Call’s press time Monday, Scott said Westfall’s condition was unchanged.

County Council Chairman Greg Quinn, R-west county, served as acting county executive temporarily last week in the days leading up to the council meeting.

Under the County Charter, the chairman would serve as acting county executive until the next council meeting when a councilman from the executive’s same party could be appointed.

Scott told the Call that county administrators and department heads are working with Dooley as needed, but he insists on working out of his council office to perform executive duties. Dooley has made it clear he does not want to use Westfall’s work space, Scott told the Call.

“Buzz Westfall, being a very personal friend, it is important to my family that he return as soon as possible … I do want to assure the county that Buzz Westfall has an outstanding staff,” Dooley told councilmen. “My role will be minimal at best.”

After the meeting, Dooley told reporters they shouldn’t expect any big changes while he is county executive — he just plans to assist in day-to-day operations. He said he will rely heavily on Chief of Staff Jim Baker for advice and guidance.

Under the County Charter, if any member of the council accepts another office or employment with the county, state or other municipality, his or her office as county councilman will be vacated.

But County Counselor Pat Redington told the Call that Dooley’s office as councilman will not be vacated and he still will retain voting duties at council meetings.

“He will be serving in the capacity of county executive,” Redington said. “There is no intention of swearing him in or having him take an oath of office … He is not getting paid as county executive.”

As county executive, she said Dooley assumes those responsibilities accordingly. However, she said that based on Dooley’s comments, she doesn’t expect him to do much more than sign approved legislation until Westfall’s recovery.

One of the first bills Dooley was expected to sign was the county’s concealed-carry legislation.

Councilmen unanimously approved a bill that evening that now bans all firearms from county or county-owned or county-operated buildings despite state law.

Temporary signage already has been posted at building entrances notifying patrons and employees that firearms are not allowed inside.

County officials earlier told the Call that no additional equipment would be purchased to enforce the county ban and no additional security personnel would be needed.

Quinn paused the meeting and asked those attending to observe a moment of silence for Westfall.

Councilmen also unanimously approved a resolution offering their support to Westfall and his family.

“The County Council has been saddened to learn of the county executive’s unexpected hospitalization …. Whereas, the County Executive’s return to health is of the utmost concern to all members of the Council …” the resolution states.

“The County Council, on behalf of all St. Louis County residents, expresses its concern and extend its support …”