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St. Louis Alderman Bill Stephens on virtual legislating and the ponytail caucus

St. Louis Alderman Bill Stephens of the 12th Ward raises his hand to take his oath of office in the Board of Aldermen chambers at City Hall on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.
Rachel Lippmann
St. Louis Public Radio
Twelfth Ward Alderman Bill Stephens takes his oath of office in April 2021.

St. Louis Alderman Bill Stephens of the 12th Ward is the latest guest on Politically Speaking. He talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann about his first nine months in office, almost all of which have been handled virtually, and what he hopes to accomplish in the time he has on the board.

Stephens was elected in April, part of an effort to boost a progressive presence at City Hall known as “Flip the Board.” He beat Vicky Grass, who had joined the Board of Aldermen in June 2020.

Stephens will have to decide in 2023 whether he wants to run for a full term to represent what after redistricting will be the 1st Ward.

Here is what Stephens talked about on the show:

  • How he was able to get elected as a gay atheist in a ward that as recently as 2011 was represented by a Republican.
  • Why he wants to focus on environmental issues, especially those that deal with water and rivers. “I have to consider as the 12th Ward aldermen, with the River Des Peres in his ward, that all drainage from say Willmore Park, which drains directly into the River Des Peres, then consequently drains directly into the Mississippi,” he said.
  • How he balances his personal progressive values with his role as an alderman for 12,000 people, not all of whom may agree on the issues.
  • Why Zoom legislating has made the process of governing nastier.

Stephens split his childhood between Hazelwood and Marquand (where the population was just under 200 in 2020), Missouri. He was the second person in his family to graduate from high school and would later receive an undergraduate degree in modern language and linguists from Webster University. He is currently working on a second bachelor’s degree in Greek and Latin at St. Louis University.

Before he was elected, Stephens worked on the St. Louis Public Library’s early childhood outreach team. He says the stark inequities he saw while doing story times at day cares across the city motivated him to run for office.

Follow Bill Stephens on Twitter: @BStingSTL

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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