ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - A blockbuster political announcement Friday from Mayor Francis Slay, as the longest serving mayor in St Louis City history announced he would not seek a fifth term in office. And he made sure no one scooped him on that announcement. He told his family Thursday night, his staff Friday morning, and gave reporters only about 30 minutes to get to city hall for the public announcement.
Slay will complete the last year of his term next spring. This opens the door to as many as a dozen Democrats who have thought about running for mayor. He said he would continue to have a vigorous and bold administration during his final year and that he has no intention of resigning early. However Slay may endorse a potential successor. He leaves with $1 million in his campaign account, no serious opponent if he had sought re-election, and several recent major successes to add to his legacy.
In the past two weeks, St. Louis City won the approval of the NGA director for the federal agency's new headquarters. Slay also led an effort to convince voters to keep the city's earnings tax system. In a brief statement, the mayor said he had no plans for the future, although he may raise money for particular issues. He did not rule out a future run for a different office.
Friend and political ally, Brian Wahby, said the mayor will go down in history as one of the best leaders for St. Louis. He praised Slay for tackling tough issues like the city's pension system and struggling schools.
"The City of St. Louis is stronger in a large part because of Francis Slay," Wahby said.
However, Wahby, the former chairman of the city’s Democratic committee, admitted his friend was tired.
"Frankly, Mayor Slay has set the bar and the expectations for future mayors of the city and you have to be on 24 hours a day, seven days a week doing the work of the people of the city and the region."
He added one of the "hallmarks of the Slay administration is an administration with no troubles, no scandals, and without any major problems."
Among those politicians already showing an interest in seeking their party's nomination are Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, who ran again Slay in 2013, and City Revenue Collector Greg F. X. Daly.
City Treasurer Tishaura Jones said she was focusing on her race for reelection; however, she would consider her options. City Alderman Antonio French tweeted, "Good luck to Mayor Slay in his future endeavors. The city now has an opportunity to move into a different direction. Our future is bright."
One city official whose name had been mentioned as a potential candidate on has already said, “No thank you.” St Louis City Police Chief Sam Dotson said he loved being a police chief and working to keep residents and neighborhoods safe. He does not want to give up that job and run for office.
Mayor Slay posted this article to his blog after the announcement:
I love what St. Louis is becoming
Last week, NGA director Robert Cardillo made public his preference for St Louis to be the site of his agency’s next new headquarters. As his justification, he cited a city that is more likely to attract and retain - also engage and entertain - the sort of employees the NGA is going to need in the next several decades.
His words were heartening. That is exactly the kind of city that I, and a very talented team, have been trying to build.
Although St. Louis is still very recognizably the city that I have represented in one elected position or another since 1985, it is also a city that has slowly won back some of its swagger as a place to start a business, to raise a family, and to walk and ride a bicycle to work. I love what we are becoming.
This past week, city voters were presented an opportunity to go a different direction: to start down a 10-year path that would have seen the city, inevitably, leave some people behind. Since rich people almost always turn out OK, the intended victims are easy to guess. City voters, by an overwhelming percentage and in the face of the most expensive negative campaign ever mounted here, refused to go along.
Election night on Tuesday was one of my proudest moments as mayor.
It was also one of my final nights staying up late worrying about election returns.
I will not be a candidate for mayor next year.
To forestall some questions:
- This is not goodbye. I am going to be mayor for another year. I will have a full and, likely, controversial agenda to complete.
- My health is fine.
- I told my family last night. I told my City Hall staff this morning.
- I do not have plans for what I will do next. Hillary Clinton has not asked me to be her running mate. St Louis Football Club has not named me its manager.
- I have not ruled out a run for another public office. I do have almost a million dollars in my campaign account and I will probably do some fundraising for issues.
- I have no intention of leaving office before my term is complete, which will mean a rigorous pair of primaries in March of 2017. I have not endorsed a successor, but I might.
- I will be at work on Monday. And Tuesday. And Wednesday. And Thursday... because I am still going to be mayor. For another year.