The next mayor of St. Louis faces big challenges — and high expectations

St. Louis Post Dispatch

The newcomer

Alderman Cara Spencer said she was first motivated to run for political office in 2015 because she was upset that nothing was being done about the Marquette Park pool’s being closed in the 20th Ward. After unseating the 20-year incumbent in the Democratic primary, she helped get the pool open. In 2019, she easily won reelection in the ward, which spans parts of Dutchtown, Gravois Park and Marine Villa, where Spencer lives with her 9-year-old son and four chickens out back.

“When I first took office, I had a hard time convincing people to purchase homes,” said Spencer, 42. “Now we are a fast-growing community that has a wide range of development. We have new construction going on in Gravois Park for the first time in decades.”

During her two terms, she’s been known to take on progressive topics beyond her ward. Perhaps most significant, she was a leading opponent of the privatization of Lambert. She also sponsored legislation to create air quality controls at vacant building demolition sites, including those near schools. She pushed other bills to curtail payday lending and guns in parks. She has fought to limit public funding of private development projects. Now she wants to broaden her reach and leadership responsibilities as mayor. She said it’s past time to get serious about addressing crime, racism and poverty, as well as the budget, which she predicts will have “major deficits” before it gets better. “It’s going to take grit and stubborn optimism. We can turn our city around,” she said. “I want to be the mayor who looks at these challenges and rolls up my sleeves and gets to work.”

Spencer grew up in the St. Louis region. Her mother was raised in East St. Louis and north St. Louis County. Her father managed a floating riverfront restaurant before moving the family from the city to the suburbs. She’s a graduate of Parkway South High School, where she was a cheerleader, soccer player and a founding member of a national championship women’s solar bike team. She was the first in her family to earn a college degree. She majored in math at Truman State University. For 15 years, she worked as a mathematical modeler who predicted market behavior for a health care consulting firm. To run for mayor, the single mother left her position as executive director of the Consumers Council of Missouri. “I am the only candidate here who hasn’t run for mayor before,” she said. “I do have a different approach.”

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