Our Call: Call makes endorsement for April 6 fire board race

Editorial

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When Bonnie Stegman first won election to the Mehlville Fire Protection District’s Board of Directors in 2005 alongside Aaron Hilmer, their opponents and critics said they lacked the experience to run a fire board. A volley of criticisms have been leveled at the two ever since, especially Hilmer, including this year in Stegman’s April 6 run for a fourth term, challenged by former firefighter Fred Baumgarth.  But one thing no one can say ahead of this election is that these two lack the experience to serve or even run a fire district.

For 16 years, longtime MFPD board Treasurer Stegman and Hilmer, joined later by board Secretary Ed Ryan, have overseen the fire district through a multitude of changes, from the state’s first-ever tax-rate rollback approved by voters to new fire stations funded with cash to a revolution in how the district responded to calls by requiring firefighters to cross-train as paramedics.

Those changes haven’t come without significant pushback at times. Stegman, now a professor, was once told she had to resign from the fire board or be fired from her job as a nurse educator. Her employer backed down after a public outcry.

“I was elected by the voters to do a job, and I’m going to continue with this job, and I’m not going to buckle under those bullies who harass people and think they can get away with it,” Stegman told The Call at the time.

Stegman has been a strong advocate for the reforms she ran on in 2005 and has fulfilled all the promises she made to voters — providing responsive, transparent government, and a fire district that provides the best bang for the buck on the lowest tax rate in St. Louis County.

But it’s not just us saying that.

In fact, The Call received more letters from local residents — who did not appear to be directly connected to the fire district other than living here — asking that voters re-elect Stegman than about any other subject in this election, or even in recent months.

We agree with those readers.

The Call endorses Bonnie Stegman.