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Lyda Krewson takes oath of office to become first woman mayor in St. Louis history

Lyda Krewson just after being sworn in as mayor by retired Chief Justice Michael A. Wolff of the Supreme Court of Missouri. Tuesday's inauguration was held in the St. Louis City Hall Rotunda. photo by Ursula Ruhl

April 18, 2017
St. Louis city's 46th mayor, Lyda Krewson, took a tough stance on crime during her campaign, advocating for an increase in the ranks of law enforcement and implementing jobs and recreation programs for at-risk youth.

Krewson, whose first husband was shot and killed in a carjacking, knows about being the victim of violent crime.

"You are probably aware that neighborhood safety is job one for our next mayor," she told the West End Word. "One of the things you perhaps saw in the news recently was a meeting between (St. Clair County Board Chairman) Mark Kern from Illinois, (St. Louis County Executive) Steve Stenger and I. We had a talk about safety in and around the MetroLink — that's just one component."

Mayor Lyda Krewson file photo (click for larger version)
She said they are currently trying to find funds to make sure that hiring more police officers and offering summer jobs and recreation for young people can become a reality.

"Don't take a young person who makes a mistake, send them to jail and make them a better criminal," she said during her campaign. "All of this is very challenging."

Krewson has so far declined to list specifics when it comes to any shakeups with the current operations of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

It's not yet known if she'll work with the police board to restructure command from the top down.

(Editor's note: It was announced after press time that Police Chief Sam Dotson will retire, effective immediately.)

However, she remains adamant that the current police force in the city isn't large enough.

"There's no doubt we need additional police officers. We're supposed to have 1,300 police officers, and we're about, give or take, a hundred police officers short right now," she said.

Even before Tuesday's swearing in, Krewson said her team had been looking at how to recruit and train more officers.

Lyda Krewson being sworn in as mayor by retired Chief Justice Michael A. Wolff of the Supreme Court of Missouri. photo by Ursula Ruhl

Last week, she attended a ceremony where 18 young, new police officers graduated the police academy.

"It was a very moving ceremony, but 18 is not enough," she said.

And paying officers more is certainly a priority.

"In order to have a strong police department, and we do have a strong police department, we have to have a competitive pay structure with other law enforcement agencies in the area," Krewson said.

Mayor Lyda Krewson on inauguration day. photo by Ursula Ruhl (click for larger version)
According to the city, the median annual police patrol officer salary in St. Louis is $52,530, with starting pay at $43,753. New recruits in St. Louis County start at $48,256. By comparison, Kansas City police officers make slightly less, averaging $51,566 per year.

Krewson said violent crime obviously takes priority in police response, but when officers are too overburdened to respond to non-violent crimes, property crimes, or even a hit-and-run accident, that's clearly a problem.

Krewson has called gun violence a health crisis in St. Louis city, and has pushed for an assault weapons ban and other gun control measures during her tenure as the city's 28th Ward alderman.

A Regional Approach

Krewson, the city's first woman mayor in its 194-year history, shared the April ballot with a sales tax initiative that would have helped to build a professional soccer stadium downtown. Many county residents were in favor of the stadium, but the tax measure was only on the city ballot, and city residents defeated it. Whether developers come up with a Plan B to build a Major League Soccer stadium remains to be seen.

Krewson said it's a prime example of how the city/county divide stands in the way of regional development.

Inauguration day, April 18, in the St. Louis City Hall rotunda. photo by Ursula Ruhl (click for larger version)
"I think the cooperation (between the city and county) has been fine, but frankly the fragmented nature of our governance here, where there are 90-some municipalities in the county and then the city of St. Louis, so the decision making we do here is made separately. I really do think that's part of the issue that's holding us back and keeping us from moving forward," she said.

"You think about the big issues here that have to do with neighborhood safety, soccer, the convention center, Scottrade Center, job retention, attracting companies and jobs to our region, all those decisions would be better made on a regional basis rather than by 320,000 folks who live in St. Louis," Krewson continued. "Those are tough decisions and they should be regional decisions."

Krewson points to many areas of positive development, including her own 28th Ward, which is now an empty seat on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. The Central West End has garnered the attention of other city mayors because of its tech start-up hub, Cortex, and its attractiveness to young professionals.

"The Central West End has enjoyed development, but you know, take a look even around the Loop," Krewson said. "There's a lot of great stuff going on in St. Louis and a lot of great areas here to live. There's Cherokee Street, Tower Grove South, the Shaw neighborhood, Old North, Hyde Park — there are a lot of great neighborhoods that are enjoying growth."

No one has come forward as of press time to run for 28th Ward alderman, but by law, a special election must be held between 75 days and 90 days from when the office is vacated. It was announced on April 20 that the election will be held Tuesday, July 11.

Washington University
Krewson, 64, edged out City Treasurer Tishaura Jones in the March primary, and though she was overwhelmingly supported by her base in and around her ward — 40 percent downtown and even higher in the Central West End and southwest quadrant of the city — she got very few votes in North City, where violent crime is most pervasive.

Critics say when Jones took a quarter of the vote in Krewson's own ward, and didn't get less than 12 percent of the vote in any city ward, it's clear Krewson has some work to do, especially in working with African-American communities north of the infamous Delmar Divide.

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