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Tom Oldenburg on finding his role on the new St. Louis Board of Aldermen

Tom Oldenburg, 2nd Ward Alderman, places his hand over his heart as local high school musicians sing the National Anthem on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, during the 2023 State of the City address at St. Louis University in Midtown.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Tom Oldenburg, 2nd Ward Alderman, places his hand over his heart as high school musicians sing the National Anthem on April 25 during the 2023 State of the City address at St. Louis University.

Tom Oldenburg doesn’t plan to stay an alderman forever.

“I don’t have any aspirations beyond the city of St. Louis. That is a fact,” he said. “But there’s always the itch in the back of my mind to stay as an urbanist and go citywide.”

But when the 2023 election cycle rolled around, he decided his experience was needed in the Board of Aldermen chambers to make the transition to 14 aldermen – “effectively a new government” – easier.

Even though the job of alderman now pays $72,000, Oldenburg plans to remain in his role as a vice president at US Bancorp Community Development Corporation, which is permitted under the new pay bill.

“I think that's wisdom for the founding fathers and mothers of our city that have said, ‘We want aldermen to seek other employment so they can bring their subject matter expertise to the board,’” he said.

Here’s what else Oldenburg discussed on Politically Speaking:

  • How his role at the development corporation enables him to understand the difficulty involved in bringing financing together for economic development. “It’s hard work,” he said. “You have to gain the trust of the sponsors of a particular project, the trust of the community where the given project is, and you've got to move all those folks together in a collaborative way that produces a project at the end of the day that creates tax revenue for cities but also has a deeper community impact.”
  • Oldenburg was one of two aldermen eligible to chair permanent committees who were not chosen to do so. “It was unexpected. But look, the rules changed,” he said. And he added that he’s happy with his assignments on the budget and public safety committees.
  • Even though he was not chosen to chair a permanent committee, Oldenburg has been asked to lead a special committee on reducing red tape in the city. While he jokes that the most boring politicians always get the good government assignments, a self-deprecating reference to Al Gore’s 1993 commission on red tape, he said there is a lot of work to do. “I think there's alignment with my colleagues and with the president's priorities and the mayor's priorities, quite frankly, around how do we grow wealth, particularly how do we grow BIPOC and Black wealth,” he said.
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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