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City GOP elections chief Leiendecker headed to Kosovo -- temporarily

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 7, 2010 - Scott Leiendecker, the Republican elections director for the St. Louis Election Board, is heading to Kosovo this week to help oversee that new nation's first general election since it split from Serbia in 2008.

The election is set for Dec. 12 and comes after the country's first parliamentary government fell because of a no-confidence vote last month. Voters will decide all 120 seats in the country's assembly.

Eleven years ago, Kosovo sparked international headlines -- and NATO military intervention -- when Serbia's military began killing Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, the majority population in what had been a province in the former Yugoslavia.

Leiendecker is being sent by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, a nonprofit group that provides election technical assistance and oversight to countries around the world.

According to Leiendecker, he is being deployed to Pristina, Kosovo's capital city with responsibilities including "advisory and logistical support."

"I'm honored for this opportunity to help bring fair, impartial and transparent elections to one of the world's newest democracies," said Leiendecker.

Leiendecker is to leave for Kosovo on Wednesday and remain through Dec. 15.

Those lauding his selection include St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, a Democrat who has been supportive of Leiendecker's performance since he was hired in 2005.

Said Slay: "St. Louis has benefited from Scott Leiendecker's service and leadership and we are proud that one of our own has answered the call to serve in this important election."

Under state law, urban election boards such as St. Louis have Democratic and Republican election directors hired by the board's four gubernatorial-appointed commissioners. The elections director is always of the same party as the governor, meaning that Leiendecker officially ran the city board's operations from 2005 until last year, when Gov. Jay Nixon took over.

But Nixon refrained until recently from making many changes to the St. Louis Election Board's Board of Commissioners, in part because of Slay's support of Leiendecker's managment. Under Leiendecker, the city election board made a number of changes in staff and in its procedures that both parties have widely praised.

Leiendecker, previously a Republican operative, was hired in 2005 by then-Election Board chairman Ed Martin.

In recent months, the city Election Board has been in turmoil as a result of commissioner changes made by Nixon. Last month, Martin -- an unsuccessful GOP candidate for Congress -- accused the board's new Nixon-appointed Democratic chief, Eileen McCann, of improperly hiring a security firm that previously had worked for his Democratic rival, incumbent Russ Carnahan. No board vote was taken regarding the $1,300 contract, which prompted some board members to protest.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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