Both individuals vying for the soon-to-be-vacant Ward 2 alderman spot in St. Clair simply felt the time was right for them to jump into the political arena.
City voters who reside in that ward will choose between Theresa Lustwerk, 56, and Gregory Talleur, 43, on April 8. The polls will be open at St. Clair City Hall from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Note: The print version of Wednesday's St. Clair Missourian incorrectly listed the polling place.)
A simple majority will determine the winner.
"When I heard about the opening, something just clicked, and it seemed like the right thing to do at the right time,” Lustwerk said. “I wanted to get involved to see if there was anything I could add.”
“Over the past few years I have contemplated running for alderman but have never felt I had enough time to participate,” Talleur said. “But at this time of my life, I feel this is the best time for me and my family to make this sacrifice.”
Whomever is elected will replace Glenn Richards, who was appointed by Mayor Ron Blum earlier this year to fill the spot vacated by Travis Dierker, who resigned to become St. Clair’s assistant city administrator. The term is for two years.
The race is the only one on the local ballot this spring. In Ward 1, incumbent Nathan Tate was the only individual to file.
Lustwerk is a detective for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and works part time as one of the county’s death investigators through the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office. Before being employed by the county, she was a patrolman for the St. Clair Police Department for three years and earned officer of the year recognition one of those years.
“I have no qualifications other than life itself,” she said when asked about her experience. “I have lived in town for over 30 years. I feel I know this place.
“I’m a black and white person. I have a very low tolerance for BS. Through my experience and training, I can listen to all sides and feel I can make good and fair decisions.”
Talleur has been employed at the Ameren Missouri Labadie Energy Center since 2001. He grew up in St. Clair and graduated from St. Clair High School in 1989. During his spare time, he coaches little league sports.
“I have a desire to help the community and a belief you can make a difference,” he said. “I feel I have the ability to work with others. I do not take action very often without first some research and investigation into the subject. You have to be able to make decisions and not take others’ positions and opinions as a personal attack on what you believe, and I think I can do that very well.”
Both candidates feel St. Clair has a list of needs.
“St. Clair’s most pressing needs are, of course, a lack of revenue for the city and an aging infrastructure,” Talleur said. “Another issue is the amount of rental versus home ownership in the community. Civic pride has gone away over the years, and it is very difficult to make changes to any tax base when only a couple of hundred folks come out to vote.”
Lustwerk centered her thoughts more on the status quo.
“I feel St. Clair’s most pressing needs are to be able to maintain what we currently have and to grow,” she said, adding that she believes local residents are vested in the community. “The people have an opinion, thoughts and ideas.”
She also said she puts “no stock in political promises or stances.”
As far as implementing any plans or ideas, Lustwerk said, “I have no plans to implement anything yet, just get elected.”
Talleur said he didn’t have a specific agenda, but “there are lots of opportunities for this city based on its geographical location, and we have missed out on a lot of these opportunities over the past 20 years. My goal is to work with the existing city government and reach out to those who are willing to invest in a community and do our best to make St. Clair their choice.”
Talleur also said his goals would be “to get involved as quick as I can” and “to make St. Clair the most attractive town for business and industry to relocate.”
“We need to make St. Clair a place where people want to buy a home and make our city their home rather than rent and pass through in six months,” he said.
Lustwerk said a short-term goal would be “to find out what the city is up to, what they have planned and jump on board.”
She added that “long-term goals are not realistic right now.”
In the planning area, Lustwerk admitted she does not know much about the city’s comprehensive plan developed in 2009, but she said she is more “excited than I’ve been in a long time about the direction that this town is going in.”
“I would like to see St. Clair’s reputation improve,” she said. “I’d like to see that we have a clean, well-maintained city. I would like to see a couple of major businesses here, too, not only for help with retail, but jobs. People in Washington will drive to Union for things. People in St. Clair drive to Union, Washington, etc., but no one wants to drive to St. Clair for anything.”
Talleur said he believes St. Clair’s current comprehensive plan “is still valid.”
“I would like to see St. Clair rival with its surrounding communities with retail and manufacturing allowing the city budget to increase by at least one-third over the next five years,” he said.
To get there, he said, “I don’t know really what the answer is. The only answer I have is that we have to keep working toward making St. Clair attractive for those willing to invest.”
Lustwerk had similar thoughts about getting and sustaining growth.
“People need a decent house to buy,” she said. “It’s my personal observation that people who own things take better care of them. Businesses that have jobs and retailers are essential as well. It is the circle of life.”
As far as the St. Clair Regional Airport and the city’s continual efforts to close it to make way for some of that retail development, Lustwerk said she doesn’t know enough about it to comment on it.
“I know it has been a topic of conversation for some time,” she said. “Until now, I didn’t pay any attention to the matter. I would like to know more about it before taking a stand on it.”
Talleur agrees with the city’s stance that the airport should be closed, but thinks the administration should look at other options as well.
“I agree with the current plan to close the airport,” he said. “However, with government red tape and bureaucracy being what it is we cannot put all of our eggs in this one basket.
“There are huge chunks of property at each of the three (St. Clair) exits (on Interstate 44) that lay undeveloped and are opportunities for us. Can those areas be developed? These are things that need to be looked at. With the seventh extension from the Federal Aviation Administration, I think it’s safe to say there is no real end in sight.”
Talleur said if elected, he will “come into this willing to work.”
“I speak my mind and don’t beat around the bush very much,” he said. “It’s important to know that my family comes first, and I will not compromise their safety or well-being.”
He also wants residents to get involved in the election process.
“Make your voice heard and come out to vote, regardless if it is for me or not.”
Lustwerk said she does not have an agenda or any political experience, but “I am held to a higher standard on a daily basis. I think I could carry that over into helping direct this city on a positive path that we all could benefit.”