O’Leary will not seek re-election to council seat

Yaeger returns to politics; will file for 6th District seat

Kevin O'Leary

Kevin O’Leary

By Gloria LLoyd

The outcome of many of this fall’s elections is up in the air, but one thing is certain: South county residents will elect a new representative to the County Council.

The county legislator for most of south county, 6th District Councilman Kevin O’Leary, D-Oakville, told the Call he will not run for another term. He won a special election last April to replace County Executive Steve Stenger, who resigned as 6th District councilman when he was elected to the county’s top job.

O’Leary is serving the rest of Stenger’s term, but the position is up for election in November.

Filing for the council seat and other county and statewide offices begins Tuesday, and former Rep. Patricia “Pat” Yaeger, D-Lemay, told the Call that she will seek the council seat. She served four terms in the Missouri Legislature, representing the 96th District from 2002 to 2010, when she was term-limited out.

Affton native O’Leary co-owned his namesake bar O’Leary’s in Sunset Hills for 17 years with his childhood best friend, actor John Goodman, before they sold it in 2013. The Oakville political newcomer defeated former Green Park Ward 4 Alderman Tony Pousosa for the council seat last year, but he told the Call last week that his plan all along was to test the waters during the initial shorter term before committing to anything more.

O’Leary said he enjoys representing south county residents in Clayton, but he and his wife, Jan, have had health problems during the last year that gave him second thoughts about running. Although he planned to be in Clayton for this week’s County Council meeting, he missed the last two council meetings due to a back injury.

In a separate episode, paramedics transported O’Leary to a hospital after the Jan. 7 council meeting.

“With my health and Jan’s health the last year or so, it’s time-consuming and you know, I really did enjoy it,” he said. “I’ve got four grandkids, and health hasn’t been exactly the best — it’s not bad, but … It’s a decision that I kind of made. Jan has said all along that it’s your decision: Whatever you decide, that’s what you’ll do.”

O’Leary, 64, is hoping his health will improve enough to take a trip with Goodman to Cardinals spring training in Jupiter, Fla., but he is conflicted because healing means forcing himself to stay home from events that he would prefer to attend.

“It’s not that everything is a crisis, it’s just that the mind says, ‘I can get through this,’ but the body says, ‘No, you can’t,'” he said. “I went to the South County Chamber meeting (last week), and I think I felt like a 105-year-old man, I mean I couldn’t move. So I’ve just been taking it easy.”

Until his term expires Dec. 31, O’Leary plans to do all he can for residents.

“I’m going to continue to try to make it a better place to live, that’s what I’ve tried to do all along,” he said. “So I’ve got 10 more months to hopefully do some good things.”

From the start, O’Leary has said he votes the way the people want, but he acknowledged that navigating divisive issues without upsetting anyone can be difficult.

“I vote for what I think is right, and does that make everybody happy? Hell, no,” O’Leary said in October.

O’Leary’s votes have mostly aligned with Stenger and the council’s Democratic majority, but he surprised everyone Oct. 6 when he voted against a rental license championed by 4th District Councilman Mike O’Mara, D-Florissant. O’Leary’s change of heart came after dozens of public speakers from an unlikely coalition of fair housing advocates and landlords spoke against the bill.

Asked about a resident’s contention that Stenger and O’Mara “Chicago-style strong-armed” O’Leary to demand he get back in line after that meeting, the councilman confirmed the officials talked with him. At the next meeting, he voted for the license.

“Did I get in trouble? I guess I did to some extent, but I’ve been in trouble before,” O’Leary told the Call at the time. “Everyone speaks their mind, and I think that’s what they call democracy. So that’s pretty much all it was … They wanted to know why, they wanted me to decide. I guess I caught them off guard — but it’s all over and done with and they’re treating me like a human being, so that’s all I can ask for.”

Yaeger has been out of politics since she left the Missouri House in 2010, but the former legislator has been eyeing a run for the council for some time: Until O’Leary decided to run, she had considered running for the seat last year.

“I’ve decided to come out of political retirement,” she said. “I like the work, I feel that I’m more than qualified, and I care about what happens in south county.”

While Yaeger has stayed out of politics lately, she has remained active in south county, serving on the Jefferson Barracks Community Council, on the board of the Lemay Development Corp. and as a volunteer for First Missouri Credit Union. She is retired from Schnucks Markets Inc.