The Webster Groves City Council will have a new look following the April 3 election. Three current council members — Ken Burns, Greg Mueller and Toni Hunt — are not seeking re-election. Burns is running for mayor against incumbent Gerry Welch.
The six candidates for three, four-year terms on the city council are: Gregory Haug, Laura Arnold, Pamela Bliss, Weston R. Ackermann, David Franklin and Ron Zager.
Gregory Haug, 742 E. Swon Ave., served on the Webster Groves City Council from 1998 to 2002. He is a current member of the city's traffic advisory commission, and served on that commission from 1995 to 1998.
A Shrewsbury police officer since 2003, Haug is a 25-year resident of Webster Groves. The 51-year-old is married and has two children.
Haug said the city needs to have a more robust business environment, having observed "businesses being forced out and restaurants closing." He said one reason he is seeking office is to push for sidewalks and street lights in his neighborhood.
"The city needs to review its policies to eliminate the red tape associated with opening a new business in Webster Groves," he said. "Cities like Maplewood and Kirkwood each have robust business districts that make these cities destinations. Webster Groves needs to be a place to live, work and play. We need to review our policies to cut through the bureaucracy."
Haug said that when he was on the city council 20 years ago studies were done on the Kirkham Avenue (now South Brentwood Boulevard) and Watson Road corridors. He said each study made recommendations to improve the areas that were never implemented.
"Both of these areas need improved sidewalks, street lights and signage to attract businesses to these areas. These high traffic areas are prime commercial areas that can generate sales taxes for the city," Haug said.
Haug contends that the city needs to head toward establishing itself as a "point-of-sale city" instead of being part of the St. Louis County "pool." He said the state or courts will revisit the county's sales tax pool formula at some time and changes might require cuts to services unless Webster Groves plans now.
Laura Arnold, 101 Mason Ave., works as an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis where she teaches American government. She and her husband, David, have three children and have lived in Webster Groves for 36 years. Arnold, 51, is a current member of the Webster Groves Parks and Recreation Commission. She also serves on the Legislative Advocacy Committee of the Webster Groves School District.
She is on the board of directors of Webster-Rock Hill Ministries, and is a member of Webster Groves Presbyterian Church, where she has served as a deacon, elder and Sunday school teacher. A basketball player at Northwestern, Arnold has coached basketball and served as a basketball coordinator for the Holy Redeemer Athletic Association.
"I've been volunteer coordinator for the Webster Waves swim team and have served the Metro Edge Figure Skating Club of Webster Groves in a variety of ways, including as president of the board of directors," Arnold said.
For her many volunteer activities in the community, Arnold was honored last year with a "Heart of Gold" award from the Webster Groves-Shrewsbury-Rock Hill Area Chamber of Commerce.
"I believe passionately that democracy only works when citizens are engaged and hold their elected leaders accountable. That is true here in Webster as well," Arnold said. "The key to engagement and accountability is open, honest communication between citizens and elected officials. I believe it is time for me to encourage greater engagement and accountability in our community as a member of the Webster Groves City Council."
Arnold said she is committed to development that allows the community to maintain what makes Webster Groves a great place to live, while at the same time taking advantage of opportunities that propel the community forward.
"I will advocate for a new community development plan created through a process that engages our entire community," Arnold said.
Pamela Bliss, 511 Oakwood Ave., is president and creative director of Bliss Collaborative, LLD, a graphic design firm located in Webster Groves. Widowed with two adult children, Bliss currently serves on the city's business development commission. She lived in Webster Groves as a college student and young graduate. Later in life, she and her husband lived in St. Louis and their children attended The College School in Webster Groves. She relocated her family back to Webster Groves eight years ago.
Bliss was a founding member of StudioSTL, a nonprofit writing center dedicated to helping children build their writing skills. A graduate of John Burroughs School, she has been active on many of that school's boards and committees.
"Service is a core passion, so I want to give back to the city that I love. Why? Because of our community's great neighborhoods, lively arts culture, tree-lined streets and dynamic business community," Bliss said. "Relocating my family to Webster Groves is a decision I've never regretted and one that drives my candidacy. I want to serve all of Webster Groves and ensure that our community's unique qualities are secured for the future."
Bliss lists business development, community engagement and civility as three priorities if elected.
"Our business districts are our public face to those who visit our city. We must work together to create civic vibrancy, to broaden our business (tax) base in Webster and secure revenue in the event municipalities leave the county tax pool," Bliss said.
Bliss said, if elected, she will create a staff liaison between city hall and the wealth of business owners seeking to enter or grow within the community.
"I would like to organize town hall meetings, in rotating locations throughout our city, where members of the community can exchange ideas and propose solutions with our city government," Bliss said. "I will listen to all members of our community, and explain reasons behind my decisions put forth to city council."
Bliss said that civility is in short supply, and that she'd like to see more of it in politics.
"Kindness and civility begin at home and that is where it means the most – among our neighbors, fellow students and coworkers, and those we meet day to day," she said.
Weston R. Ackermann, 1116 Lanvale Drive, is the owner of Love Unleashed, a dog daycare and boarding establishment, and is in chemical sales for Ecolab. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children and have lived in Webster Groves for nine years.
Ackermann, 38, said that as a younger member of the community he wants to invest his time, energy and skills into the city council, knowing that it's important to have representation of ideas and values shared by people of different generations.
"I want to serve my community. I believe the city council plays a pivotal role in providing the services that support our quality of life now and into the future," Ackermann said. "In challenging times, we must be smart about where we invest our limited resources if we want to continue to be a leader in the St. Louis community."
Ackermann said Webster Groves "has it all" when it comes to the resources needed to support the "live, work, play" model for a city with a sustainable future.
"Sustainability is a word that we hear a lot. To me, it means more than recycling, energy efficiency and green space," Ackermann said. "It means that we need to thoughtfully plan for connectivity and balance between neighborhoods, retail, industry, education, recreation, entertainment and the arts. These are not competing interests; these are interdependent. This is why we need to consider delivery of services to the community as part of an integrated planning process."
In his role on the city council, Ackermann said he will be accountable to deliver on the three Rs of service to the community.
"I will be responsive, responsible and results-driven," Ackermann said.
David Franklin, 7848 Big Bend Blvd. #7, is a 31-year-old attorney with The Dysart Law Firm, P.C. He is a current member of the Webster Groves Parks and Recreation Commission, and is the president of Payback, Inc., a non-profit that helps juveniles, their families and the community break the cycle of juvenile delinquency.
Born and raised in Webster Groves, Franklin said he understands the traditions that have made the city one of the area's most attractive municipalities.
"Dedicated to a life lived in service of others and my community, I believe elected office is a form of community service. I believe in the power and responsibility of government to make people's lives better, simpler and more enjoyable," Franklin said.
If elected, Franklin said he will work to establish more efficient and cost-effective programs for delivering government services by increasing collaboration with neighboring municipalities. He said he would create a more inclusive and responsive government that incorporates the ideas and concerns of all residents.
"I am running for Webster Groves City Council because I want to build on the traditions that have made Webster Groves such a special place to live and raise a family," Franklin said. "My run is motivated by what I hear my friends and neighbors say they want for our city — a more inclusive and responsive government that always strives to better serve its residents."
Franklin said he would work to stimulate the Webster Groves economy by eliminating unnecessary laws and regulations that make it difficult and cost-prohibitive to begin and grow small businesses. He would promote and encourage participation from all residents by instituting transparent and accountable principles.
Ron Zager, 337 Dobbin Road, had a long career as a teacher at Affton High School, and has served as a substitute teacher at Webster Groves High School for the past 12 years. Zager, 71, and his wife, Marge, have two adult children and have lived in Webster Groves for 40 years.
Zager served two terms on the Webster Groves Parks and Recreation Commission, two terms on the city's green space advisory commission, and one term on the city's traffic safety commission. Zager said there are four areas of major concern that he will address should he be elected.
"Almost all municipalities follow a district or ward format for their city councils. I think it is time that Webster Groves does, too," Zager said. "I would propose that a mayor and deputy-mayor be voted on at-large and that five citizens be elected to our council from districts."
Zager said a council elected from districts would be more responsive since voters would feel an ownership of "their representative."
Zager said parking has long been a problem, especially along and at both ends of the Lockwood corridor. He said a study should be made of parking needs under the guidance of the traffic advisory commission.
He said city construction inspections and code enforcement functions need to be streamlined.
"Webster Groves needs more affordable housing, both for those on limited incomes who are no longer able to age in place, and for those of modest incomes wanting to establish residency in our city," Zager said. "This will be a lengthy process that will require consistent efforts and cooperation with other governmental agencies if we are to be successful."
Zager said he is running for council without asking, or accepting, any contributions.
"You won't see any yard signs or professional fliers or websites, just my amateur efforts and what I hope will be strong grass-roots support," Zager said.