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Government, Politics & Issues

Patty Gregory Becomes Belleville’s First Female Mayor, Unseating Longtime Incumbent

Patty Gregory won 56% of the mayoral vote in Belleville, unseating incumbent Mayor Mark Eckert, who has been in that role since 2004. Gregory will be the first woman mayor in Belleville.
Derik Holtmann
/
Belleville News-Democrat
Patty Gregory won 56% of the mayoral vote in Belleville, unseating incumbent Mayor Mark Eckert, who has been in that role since 2004. Gregory will be the first female mayor in Belleville.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Patty Gregory said she heard comments on the campaign trail that some Belleville residents weren’t ready for a female mayor, but that was not the view taken by most voters in Tuesday’s election.

Gregory collected 2,725 votes (56%) to defeat longtime incumbent Mayor Mark Eckert, who had 2,039 votes (42%), according to complete but unofficial results from St. Clair County.

The vote totals for write-in candidate Jeffrey “J.D.” Dixon were not immediately available and final vote tallies can change after all mail-in ballots arrive.

Both Eckert and Dixon congratulated Gregory late Tuesday.

“It’s wonderful to see a woman now have the opportunity after 200 plus years of being a female mayor of Belleville,” Gregory said. “I am really looking forward to being the first female mayor of Belleville.”

Gregory said she’s “very grateful” for all of the support she received in her effort to lead a city that traces its roots to 1814 and that she will work hard in “moving Belleville in a positive, forward direction.”

“I look forward to new, exciting adventures,” she said.

Gregory, 67, is a former teacher who established the Art on Square organization in Belleville and serves as its executive director. The art show will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2021 and previously has been ranked No. 1 nationally in terms of artwork sold. This was the first public office she has sought.

Gregory said a “a lot of hard work” from her supporters paid off in the election.

In a mirror to the outcome of the mayor’s race, Sarah Biermann, a treasurer’s department employee, collected 2,633 votes to defeat incumbent Treasurer Dean Hardt, who had 1,909 votes, according to complete but unofficial results. Hardt was elected treasurer in 2013.

Gregory supported Hardt during the campaign and Eckert supported Biermann but Gregory said she looks forward to working with Biermann.

All three of Belleville’s citywide elected positions will be held by women. City Clerk Jenny Gain Meyer ran unopposed.

Gregory expects to be sworn into office on May 1 and preside over her first City Council meeting on May 3. She said she plans to meet with Eckert and department heads during the transition as she plans her administration.

Gregory said Eckert was “gracious” in congratulating her after the results were released.

Eckert, who was appointed mayor in December 2004 and then won four elections prior to Tuesday, said he’s not sure what his next chapter will be but he plans to help Gregory with the transition.

Eckert, 65, acknowledged that the length of his tenure may have had residents looking for “a change,” but he said he wanted to run again because he thought he offered the experience needed for a “challenging job.”

“It’s not as easy as some of the campaign promises,” he said. “Finances will be an issue.

“They’re going to find out there’s a lot of long days. You never make everybody happy,” he said. “I learned that a long time ago.”

Eckert thanked all the aldermen and city staff who served during his years as mayor.

“Together we turned Belleville in the right direction, no matter what a few of them think. Downtown is a totally different place today,” he said.

Dixon, 33, said he will continue to work for the racial, social and environmental justice causes that he heralded during his campaign and that he looks forward to working with Gregory. He was seeking to be the first Black mayor of Belleville.

Mike Koziatek is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

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