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McNary resigning from Missouri Gaming Commission before asked to step down

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 22, 2010 - Former St. Louis County Executive Gene McNary is stepping down as executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission and acknowledges that he's doing so because he expected to be replaced soon.

"Gene saw the changing of the guard," said commission spokeswoman LeeAnn McCarthy.

The commission announced today that it was accepting his resignation as of July 1, when the next fiscal year begins.

McNary's decision came swiftly, the spokeswoman said, after Gov. Jay Nixon announced on Tuesday two new appointments to the five-person commission.  McNary and Nixon have been at odds over some gaming issues, going back to the days when Nixon was the state's attorney general.

On Wednesday, at the end of the commission's regular meeting, McNary verbally told the panel that he was stepping down as of July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.

The matter had not come up during the meeting, McCarthy said.

McNary has been the commission's executive director since January 2006. He will be replaced by Roger Stottlemyre, the commission's current deputy director of enforcement.

Commission chairman James Mathewson, a Democrat (and former state senator) on good terms with Nixon, said in a statement: "We wanted the transition between executive directors to be seamless. We also agreed it would be in the best interest of the commission, and its staff, to appoint Roger Stottlemyre to fill the vacancy."

Stottlemyre is the former superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

McCarthy said McNary also thought it was a good time for him to step down now, as a new process is underway for the awarding of another gaming license. "He wanted to make the transition smoother," the spokeswoman said.

In recent months, McNary has been a sharp critic of Pinnacle Entertainment, which owns the Lumiere and President casinos in downtown St. Louis. The commission has accused Pinnacle of intentionally allowing the President to become rundown. The President now is slated to close in June, and already has told 200 employees they are losing their jobs.

A Republican, McNary holds the record as St. Louis County's longest-serving county executive. He made two unsuccessful bids for statewide office -- for the U.S. Senate in 1980 and governor in 1984 -- and narrowly lost a quest for the U.S. House in 2000, when he was edged out by fellow Republican Todd Akin in the primary by just over 50 votes.

In 1989, McNary left county government when he was named by then-President George Bush  head of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. McNary served in the job until shortly after Democrat Bill Clinton succeeded Bush in the White House.

As a presidential appointee, McCarthy said, McNary understood that changing administrations -- on the state or federal level -- often means that the new chief executive wants to put in his own team in place. In Nixon's case, that includes the Gaming Commission.

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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