Politically Speaking: Ponder on chief of staff role, police review board and keeping the Rams | St. Louis Public Radio

Politically Speaking: Ponder on chief of staff role, police review board and keeping the Rams

On this edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Jo Mannies and Rachel Lippmann welcome Mary Ellen Ponder to the show. 

Ponder was recently appointed chief of staff for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, replacing Jeff Rainford. She is the first woman to serve as chief of staff for a St. Louis mayor.

A south St. Louis County native, Ponder worked in various political and governmental capacities for Slay. She helped run Slay’s successful 2009 and 2013 campaigns and helped change how community development block grants are divided up in the city.

As chief of staff, Ponder oversees the city’s chief of operations – who in turn monitors all of Slay’s cabinet members. That means she’s in charge of  “the strategy, the vision and the policymakers decisions” for the mayor – making Ponder one of the most influential figures in the city's government.

Ponder with St. Louis Public Radio reporter Rachel Lippmann.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

During the show, Ponder said:

  • She returned to St. Louis in 2008 to work with the AFL-CIO. Political consultant Michael Kelley gave her name to Rainford, who subsequently interviewed her to be deputy campaign manager in Slay’s 2009 re-election campaign.
  • Slay is a “willing partner” in pushing for policies popular among the young, such as bolstering bicycle infrastructure. Slay "understands that bringing the younger or youngish population to the city is what is going to keep us moving forward,” she said.
  • The Board of Aldermen is expected to send Slay legislation setting up a civilian review board in April. “There’s a lot of ownership and pride in the compromise bill that is there right now,” she said.
  • The city needs to keep the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Losing the facility would mean that the city would lose several million in earnings tax and thousands of jobs, she said.
  • Both Gov. Jay Nixon and Slay are committed to building a new football stadium on St. Louis’ riverfront. “We have a great team in place that’s working on this and at a quick pace,” she said.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Follow Mary Ellen Ponder on Twitter: @mepstl

Music: "Time to Pretend" by MGMT and "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas