ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - There is a changing of the guard coming at St. Louis City Hall. Mayor Francis Slay's outspoken chief of staff will leave in early February after a record-setting 14 years in the job. 55-year-old Jeff Rainford plans to open his own public policy and strategic communications consulting business.
Rainford, a former broadcast reporter and political consultant first began working with Slay in 1994 when he ran for President of the Board of Aldermen. In 2001 Rainford engineered Slay's winning bid for mayor. The mayor urged his campaign manager to join him at city hall as chief of staff. "I never thought I would like the job," Rainford said as he talked about his 14 years in the center of power. But it turned out he did.
"It is maddening, it is thrilling, it is fulfilling, it is sleepless nights, but it is the best job I've ever had and probably the best job I'm ever gonna have," Rainford admitted.
Known for his tough talk and fierce defense of the mayor and the city's needs, Rainford often rubbed some the wrong way. "I hope I have learned to soften things somewhat over the years," he said.
"I know he can have a rough side about him rough and tough side, but that's a good thing," Mayor Slay said. "For Jeff it was all about what was good for, number one, the people of St. Louis and the city government and also he was always looking out for me and watching my back."
Rainford and Slay were often seen as opposites in personality, but their approach worked well and Rainford was careful to make it clear Slay was the boss.
Rainford will still provide advice to the mayor, but Slay says he won't be paid with tax dollars and it will be on topics that are regional or major developments. Rainford can put aside the day-to-day worries of the chief of staff particularly during bad weather.
The mayor's current Director of Operations Mary Ellen Ponder will take on the responsibilities of Chief of Staff. She will be the first woman to hold the post in city history.