On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome Dan Guenther to the program for the first time.
Guenther defeated longtime 9th Ward Alderman Ken Ortmann in St. Louis’ primary election. He’s heavily favored to defeat a Green Party candidate on April 4, meaning he will take his aldermanic seat in mid-April.
Guenther, who lives in the Benton Park neighborhood, has worked on sustainability issues for the city, including a neighborhood beautification effort known as Brightside St. Louis. He initially worked in rehabbing buildings, but switched his professional focus to sustainability after the economic recession hit in 2009. He also helped the successful campaigns of state Rep. Bruce Franks, D-St. Louis, and Alderman Cara Spencer, 20th Ward – two south St. Louisans who also defeated longtime incumbents.
In some ways, Guenther’s win is part of a shift in south St. Louis politics. Back in 2013, for example, turnout in the 9th Ward was a little more than 18 percent. Four years later, turnout in the 9th leaped above 31 percent. His ward was among other south St. Louis wards that supported mayoral candidates who are African-Americans.
The 9th went with St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones. That represents a change from 2013 when St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay won most wards south of Delmar. The 9th Ward includes the Soulard and Benton Park West neighborhoods.
Guenther will be part of the largest freshman class for the Board of Aldermen in 26 years. In addition to Guenther, five new aldermen will replace retiring incumbents. And if Democratic mayoral nominee Lyda Krewson wins the April 4 general election, as expected, she will vacate her 28th Ward aldermanic seat. A special election will then take place later this year.
- South St. Louis voters are becoming more conscious of racial disparities throughout the city and the region. “This election has shown that Ferguson is real,” he said. “A lot of us who are in south St. Louis, we’ve seen for years how our city can be divided. We’ve sat back and watched policies be made that disproportionately affect minorities.”
- The election results show that “this is definitely a new era in St. Louis where we are ready to move the entire city forward.” Guenther said policymakers need to tackle the longstanding problems residents have grappled with, such as shorter life expectancies, access to health care and challenges in education.
- Because their boundaries are so close, aldermen in the the 9th and 20th wards often have often shared interests and problems. Guenther said he expects to forge a solid relationship with Spencer. “It’s a great opportunity for us to really have two alderpeople that are working together daily,” he said.
- Guenther said he worked closely with numerous mayoral candidates at Brightside St. Louis, including Krewson. He says he’ll be meeting Krewson next week. “And hopefully we can talk about the issues I see in my ward and how we can work together to make sure we’re addressing these issues,” he said.
Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies
Follow Dan Guenther: @DanGuentherSTL
Music: “Blind Kids” by American Wrestlers