Winston Calvert is no longer St. Louis’ city counselor.
Up until earlier this week, Calvert was in charge of 37 attorneys who handled the city’s legal business. But after some rumblings on social media, Calvert confirmed to St. Louis Public Radio in several text messages that he had left St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s administration.
“There are things I want to do that I can’t do as city counselor, so I’m stepping back,” Calvert said. “I am extraordinarily grateful that I had the opportunity to work with Mayor Slay and (his chief of staff Mary Ellen Ponder) on issues facing our city, from marriage equality to reforming the city’s business laws.
“I will continue to work on improving the city’s future in my next chapter,” he added.
Slay’s office subsequently announced that deputy city counselor Michael Garvin would be stepping into the city counselor position on an interim basis. A former newspaper reporter, Garvin has spent time both in the city counselor’s office and in private practice since he graduated from the Washington University School of Law in 1989. He was acting city counselor prior to Calvert’s appointment.
The mayor’s office also announced Nancy Kistler, who has worked for the city counselor’s office since 2006, will step in as deputy city counselor.
The press release announcing Garvin’s appointment didn’t specify why Calvert had abruptly left his position. When asked why Calvert had department, Slay spokeswoman Maggie Crane replied: “Winston resigned.”
After being appointed to his post in the middle of 2014, Calvert was at the center of high-profile and controversial litigation for the city.
He defended St. Louis’ decision to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, which ran afoul of the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. That move was effectively affirmed earlier this year when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state prohibitions on same-sex marriage.
Calvert was also tasked with defending city ordinances that raised the minimum wage and that required a citywide vote before allocating any funds for stadiums. Both of those ordinances were invalidated, although Slay’s administration is appealing the minimum wage decision. (The mayor decided against having the city appeal the stadium funding ordinance decision, which came after some questioned if he was actually “vigorously defending” the measure.)