Election of Stenger as county executive top story of 2014

Look for more to come in 2015 from some of 2014’s top stories

By Mike Anthony

Without a doubt, 2014 certainly was a year of change.

With the November election of 6th District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, as county executive, 2014 marked a change in the top leadership of St. Louis County — the end of Charlie Dooley’s 11-year tenure in the position.

The past year also brought changes to the top leadership of two municipalities — Sunset Hills and Crestwood.

To be elected county executive, Stenger first decisively defeated Dooley in the Aug. 5 primary. Four days later, St. Louis County was thrust into the international spotlight when then-Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed an unarmed African-American teenager.

The death of Michael Brown sparked unrest in Ferguson that continued for weeks, ultimately spilling over into the County Council Chambers, where protesters demanded that Stenger denounce county Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch or lose their support in the November election.

McCulloch, a longtime Dooley supporter, backed Stenger in his bid for county executive. At Stenger’s victory party after the primary, the councilman credited the prosecutor nearly single-handedly with his decisive victory over Dooley. That same night, McCulloch also won handily against primary challenger Leslie Broadnax.

To say that the county executive election and the events in Ferguson fractured the St. Louis County Democratic Party would be an understatement.

Upset over Ferguson and the defeat of a diversity bill by the County Council, a coalition of north county Democrats endorsed Stenger’s Republican opponent, Rep. Rick Stream of Kirkwood, in the November election. The Fannie Lou Hamer Coalition — a group of black Democratic mayors, state legislators and other politicians from north county led by Council Chairwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City — campaign on Stream’s behalf in north county in the wake of the endorsement.

Stenger, however, narrowly defeated Stream in November, helped by late-reporting precincts from Ferguson and Spanish Lake that came in near midnight.

The 0.58-percent margin of victory — nearly 1,700 votes of more than 290,000 cast — resulted in Stream requesting a recount Dec. 17. In last week’s recount, Stream recovered some votes, but did not gain enough to significantly close the gap.

In his inauguration remarks Jan. 1, Stenger echoed his key campaign themes of transparency and accountability while also acknowledging the reality that the county — and the world — will have to change because of Ferguson. His election is the Call’s No. 1 story of 2014.

We can’t recall any sitting mayor in the Call’s circulation area ever charged with one felony, let alone two, but Sunset Hills Mayor Mark Furrer faces arraignment Wednesday — after the Call went to press — on two felony charges, second-degree assault and property damage.

The charges stem from a July 29 incident in which Furrer allegedly hit Fenton bicyclist Randy Murdick with his car on Old Gravois Road in Sunset Hills. Furrer maintains his innocence and plans a “vigorous” defense against the charges.

Furrer was charged with the felonies in October, and a St. Louis County grand jury indicted him in December on the same two charges. A majority of Sunset Hills aldermen have called for Furrer to resign or take a leave of absence, but the mayor has said he will not step down.

Mehlville Board of Education members voted unanimously in March to release Superintendent Eric Knost from his contract so Knost could become superintendent of the Rockwood School District, effective July 1.

Knost had served as Mehlville superintendent since July 1, 2011.

The Mehlville board hired Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Norm Ridder, who has more than 40 years of teaching and administration experience in Nebraska, Colorado and Missouri, to serve as interim superintendent, and is in the process of hiring a permanent superintendent.

Lindbergh Schools voters approved a $34 million bond issue in April that will fund the construction of a new elementary school and other improvements to help ease the district’s booming enrollment.

Residents and elected officials, including a state legislator, banded together to criticize the way library handled the move of the Tesson Ferry Branch County Library.

They contended library officials did not include residents in the process of moving the library from its longtime location in Green Park to its new $16 million building at the Gravois and Musick intersection across from Grant’s Farm in Affton, which is set to open in the fall of 2015.

Those concerns fell on deaf ears, as officials broke ground on the new Grant’s View Branch County Library in September.

No one was more surprised about the outcome of April’s election in Sunset Hills than Mark Furrer, who called his write-in victory over incumbent Mayor Bill Nolan “stunning.”

Furrer launched his write-in campaign for mayor roughly two weeks before the April 8 election, sparked by his opposition to a proposed QuikTrip development off Interstate 270. Nolan was seeking his third term as mayor.

Chicago developer UrbanStreet Group is the new owner of the Crestwood mall site, after closing the purchase on May 2. The company submitted a high bid of $3.65 million April 23 on

for the 1.5-million-square-foot, 47-acre mall property. County property records show the sale price at $2.625 million.

Former mall owner Centrum Partners submitted a plan to develop the site as a $121 million entertainment complex with a roughly $34 million request for tax-increment financing and other tax incentives that never gained traction with the aldermen, who deadlocked on whether to hire a planner to study Centrum’s proposal.

While UrbanStreet has yet to submit a redevelopment proposal, aldermen voted in December to approve a preliminary funding agreement with the developer and to hire a planning consultant.


Crestwood voters decided in April they wanted new leadership, ousting Mayor Jeff Schlink, a former Ward 2 alderman, in favor of former Ward 3 Alderman Gregg Roby. In a race that turned on support for or against a redevelopment proposal for the former Crestwood Plaza shopping center, Roby defeated Schlink by 246 votes.

Lindbergh Schools taxpayers will save more than $3.5 million with last February’s refunding of general obligation bonds originally issued in 2007.

The bond refunding was the eighth the district has done since 1998, saving taxpayers a total of $8,819,568.

The Green Park Board of Aldermen voted in January to purchase the building that houses City Hall for $1.39 million.

The Green Park Professional Building contains eight suites. City Hall has been located in the building since the summer of 2004, first in Suites 2 and 3. In mid-2013, City Hall moved to Suites 5 and 6, nearly double the amount of space.