The deep freeze between St. Louis County Executive-elect Steve Stenger and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley seems to be thawing.
A little more than a week after Stenger and Dooley revealed that they weren’t talking to each other, the bitter rivals appear to have a line of communication to help with a changeover in office. Stenger defeated Dooley in a Democratic primary and will take office on Jan. 1.
Dooley tapped St. Louis County chief operating officer Garry Earls to help Stenger with preparing to take over the county’s top job. And Stenger said Earls has been in touch with people helping out with his transition.
“I want to keep moving in this direction,” Stenger said on Tuesday. “It’s important for St. Louis County to have a really professional, smooth transition. And it looks as though we’re going to do that.”
Dooley added that the transition is going “just fine.”
“Garry met with the representative of the transition team within the last couple of days,” Dooley said. “And all the things they’ve asked of us, we’ve provided them.”
One reason the estrangement between the two was notable is because Stenger will likely take office after the grand jury decides whether to charge Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson with a crime. After telling reporters last week that he’d been “advised of nothing” from Dooley’s administration regarding any preparations for the announcement, Stenger said he’s been briefed on the matter.
“I believe that it is a plan that respects the rights of those who wish to protest. And at the time same, it protects life and property in St. Louis County, which is what I think we need,” said Stenger.
While transitions between county executives are fairly rare, Stenger suggested that it might be wise to have an ordinance laying out a protocol. Several state statutes provide guidelines for a gubernatorial changeover.
“We may need to have an ordinance in St. Louis County that would specify exactly how the transition should move forward,” Stenger said. “But I will say that we’re on a good trajectory now. And one way or the other, we were going to complete our transition. I’m going to complete the transition and St. Louis County is going to receive a transition to a new government. There’s no doubt about that.”
Transition team unveiled
Meanwhile, Stenger announced the members of his transition team earlier this week.
It includes Husch Blackwell CEO Greg Smith, former state Reps. Hope Whitehead and Bob Blitz, faith leader Freddie Clark, St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council executive director Jeff Aboussie and businessman Tony Thompson. (See the full list here.)
“You see names that you would associate with transportation,” Stenger said. “You see names that you’ll associate with public health. You’ll see names that you’ll associate with diversity and inclusion in St. Louis County. This group is a very diverse group of individuals demographically; it’s also a very diverse group by occupation and by function.”
Stenger said this team would help recommend people for key positions within county government. The St. Louis County executive gets to choose several “political appointees” that head certain departments. He also said they’ll suggest ways to reconfigure aspects of St. Louis County government.
Stenger emphasizes, though, that "they will only be making recommendations. All final determinations will be made by me.”