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Politically Speaking: Closing The Book On The Steve Stenger Era In St. Louis County

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger walks out of federal court Friday after pleading guilty to federal charges.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger walks out of federal court after pleading guilty to federal charges.

On this edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue, Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum reflect on the rise and fall of former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

The Democratic official was sentenced to 46 months in prison last week for his role in a pay-to-play scheme. He’s been the subject of public scorn after a sentencing memo detailed vulgar and boorish comments about his political enemies.

But there’s more to Stenger’s story than just his rapid departure from office. Organized labor, business leaders and top elected officials played a key role in his rise. After entering office with the power to radically change St. Louis County government, much of Stenger’s tenure devolved into heated confrontations with the St. Louis County Council. 

Even before he resigned in late April, Stenger was deeply unpopular across the political spectrum. The decision to make him the first “metro mayor” under a city-county merger proposal was widely criticized — and cited as one of the reasons the entire plan collapsed after his guilty plea.

Here’s what St. Louis Public Radio’s political team talked about on the program:

  • How Stenger’s relationship with the black political community never recovered after his divisive 2014 primary with then-County Executive Charlie Dooley.
  • Why his relationship with the County Council got so bad, even as he came into office with the vast majority of council members allied with him.
  • The response Stenger provided when his opponents accused him of corruption.
  • The expectations for Stenger’s replacement, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.
Politically Speaking

The podcast is sponsored by the St. Louis-based law firm of Capes Sokol

Follow Julie O’Donoghue on Twitter: @jsodonghue

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Music: “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones

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.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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