Your vote in Aug. 5 Democratic primary is vital to protect and grow union jobs
If there’s one thing St. Louis County Councilman and Democratic candidate for county executive Steve Stenger understands, it’s the struggles a working family faces every day, and how that requires you to watch every dime to make sure it is being spent wisely.
That understanding came from growing up in a working class family. His father, a CWA lineman for 42 years, taught his son by example what it means to work hard work and to respect the work people do to support their families. His mother was a homemaker, wife and mother to the four Stenger kids. They grew up in a 1,000-square-foot home with a single bathroom.
At a meeting of the Building Trades Council recently, Stenger told delegates he grew up understanding the importance of the union putting food on their table and a roof over their heads.
“This is the kind of man St. Louis County needs as its chief executive officer,” said Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Aboussie, “because he understands the needs of working families, the kind of hard work it takes to support a family.”
The St. Louis Labor Council, COPE, the St. Louis Building Trades Council, Teamsters Joint Council 13 and all the area Labor Clubs have endorsed Stenger in the Democratic Primary Aug. 5 against incumbent Charlie Dooley.
Stenger has been a county councilman for the past six years.
SOUTH SIDE GUY
Stenger, 42, is a south St. Louis guy. He went to Bishop DuBourg High School and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he majored in business administration with an emphasis on accounting. He took the certified public accountant exam right after graduation, then headed for law school at St. Louis University, where he graduated with honors.
In an interview with the Labor Tribune, Stenger said his blue-collar upbringing influenced his approach to life and the role of government.
“I grew up in a family with hard working parents,” he said. “A father who, literally, came home every night dirty from his work. He did everything from digging ditches to putting telephone poles in to stringing up lines … He was one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever known.”
He learned about hard work, as most of us did, by working several jobs while in high school: as a bus boy and a dishwasher in a local restaurant and as the lead singer, guitar and piano player in his own high school band. Later, working his way through college with some partial scholarships, while working at Wendy’s and sweeping floors in a tool and die shop.
He laughs when he recalls that he was sweeping floors when he got the call that he had passed the CPA exam!
He learned about trade unions in a very direct manner:
• At six, helping his dad go door-to-door handing out flyers against the first attempt to pass a phony right-to-work law;
• At 10, with his sisters in tow, walking picket lines with his dad during a major CWA strike against Southwestern Bell.
“We all learned early on you never cross a picket line. That’s how I was brought up,” he said proudly.
Stenger’s career after graduating law school began as an accountant with one of the largest national firms in the nation. He specialized in state and local taxation and business tax consulting, giving him the grounding he would need later as a St. Louis County councilman.
In 1996 Stenger started his own law firm specializing in workers compensation and personal injury litigation. “I understood workers and what happens to their bodies after a lifetime of hard work.”
Today his firm handles a broad range of legal matters including civil and criminal litigation.
His wife Ali is a lawyer working alongside him. They have a one-month old daughter, Madeline Jane.
In addition to his practice, Stenger has done a great deal of free work for the federal public defender’s office, representing the poor who didn’t have funds to pay for legal help.
“I learned a great deal about life over the course of all those years representing those individuals,” Stenger said.
NO RUBBER STAMP
Because of his desire to help people, in 2008 Stenger decided to run for the St. Louis County Council from the county’s 6th District. He beat an incumbent then too.
Since his election in 2008, he has served with distinction on the county council, serving as its chairman since 2011.
On the council, Stenger has refused to be a rubber stamp for Dooley.
• Divide the county into trash collection districts;
• Close country parks;
• Shut down domestic violence centers;
• By-pass the “responsible bidder” legislation Stenger helped to pass which requires contractors to have a legitimate apprenticeship-training program to ensure quality work is performed for county government.
He was particularly vocal opponent of Dooley’s effort to appoint former Republican gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence – an open supporter right-to-work – to the county police board.
He has also been an outspoken critic of Dooley’s handling of the health department scandal in which former director Edward Mueth committed suicide as authorities were preparing to confront him over the embezzlement of $3.4 million in overcharges for computer equipment and services over a period of several years.
“As county executive, I would have controls in place,” Stenger said, so that such a scheme could not have happened.
MAJOR GOAL: CREATE JOBS
Noting that under Dooley’s leadership, the county has lost more than 30,000 jobs –many of which were held by union breadwinners – Stenger said job creation will be a major goal for him in the next four years, and that he will use skills as a CPA to help county government get back on track.
“If you know where the money’s going, and you know where the money’s coming from, that’s where accountability begins,” Stenger said
“That’s critical to having a fresh start. If we don’t learn from the past… instances of mismanagement, there’s a risk of repeating them. I don’t think that’s a risk that St. Louis County can afford to take.”
Action in the first 100 days
If he wins the Aug. 5 Democratic primary and the November election for St. Louis County Executive, with Labor’s help and support, Steve Stenger says he will begin the processes of creating new jobs within his first 100 days of taking office.
Stenger said he plans to:
• Conduct “a complete forensic audit” of county government to determine where money is being spent wisely, and not so wisely;
• Create a special economic development team to identify emerging growth industries and work to bring them into the county;
• Install high-speed transmission fiber throughout the county as an immediate magnet for new industries to locate. “Put that in the ground and you’ll see businesses begin to sprout like daisies;”
• Launch a major infrastructure rebuilding effort that the county desperately needs.
• Use highly skilled union labor for county projects, because he knows it will be done right the first time, giving taxpayers real value for their investments.
Stenger is committed to being a hands-on executive, with personal involvement in all phases of these new initiatives to see that they don’t stall.
St. Louis area labor is behind Stenger, and needs every member of every local in St. Louis County to turn out Aug. 5 to vote for him.