More than two years after narrowly losing a bid for the top job in St. Louis County government, Rick Stream is slated to become one of the most powerful elections officials in Missouri.
The St. Louis County Board of Elections Commissioners tapped Stream to serve as the Republican elections director. Two directors from each major political party are in charge of running the day-to-day operations of county elections board. But because Stream shares the same party with incoming Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, he’ll technically be in charge of the state’s largest elections jurisdiction.
Stream will replace Christian Tolbert, who was serving as interim GOP elections director after Gary Fuhr retired.
Stream didn’t return a phone call from St. Louis Public Radio. But St. Louis County Board of Elections Commissioner John Maupin said Stream’s four terms in the Missouri House and his stint as House Budget Committee chairman made him a good fit for the demanding job.
“He brings a good set of management skills to the position,” Maupin said. “And his legislative background will help with any kind of reforms that we want to promote in Jefferson City. He’s a terrifically fine man … And I think he’ll treat everyone fairly and honestly. He’s a team player. He understands the importance of working together with the Democratic director.”
Maupin added that even though Stream’s political symbiosis with Greitens would generally make him “first among equals,” he added that he expects a cooperative relationship with Democratic elections director Eric Fey.
“We don’t want to have one person calling all the shots and other person having to go in hat in hand, asking ‘hey what I am supposed to do today?’” Maupin said. “That’s not how that office operates most efficiently with the best results for the voters of St. Louis County in mind. We want collaboration and cooperation. And I’m confident Rick Stream will bring that to the role.”
Fey will continue to serve as Democratic elections director, Maupin said. As of 2015, both the Republican and Democratic elections directors made more than $128,000 a year.
Stream is set to start his new job on Jan. 9, the same day Greitens is sworn into office. He’ll help lead a board that’s been hit with controversy over the past few years, most recently when a number of polling places ran out of ballots during the April municipal elections.
Reversal of fortune
In some ways, Stream’s ascension to the election board marks a shift in fortunes for the Kirkwood native.
When he was forced out of the House due to term limits in 2014, Stream ran for St. Louis County executive. He received unprecedented support from African-American leaders, but Stream narrowly lost to Democrat Steve Stenger.
Two years later, Stream lost more decisively to state Rep. Andrew Koenig for the GOP nomination for the 15th District Senate seat. Koenig, R-Manchester, easily beat Democrat Steven Eagleton in last month’s general election.
The Associated Press reported that Stream was one of the people who was assisting Greitens with budgetary issues during his gubernatorial transition.