Francis Slay, mayor of the city of St. Louis, on Wednesday attended his last meeting as a board member of the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, which is the region’s federally designated metropolitan planning organization.
Slay served on the board for 22 years, first as the city’s aldermanic president for six years, then as mayor of the city of St. Louis for 16 years. As holder of both elected offices, he was an ex officio member of the East-West Gateway Board, which includes the top elected officials of the city of St. Louis and the surrounding seven counties in Illinois and Missouri.
“I have served a lot of boards over the years,” Slay said at Wednesday’s meeting. “This is my favorite board, for a lot of reasons. It’s a very effective organization, with a very talented staff.”
Slay received a standing ovation at the meeting, which was chaired by John Greisheimer, the presiding commissioner of Franklin County.
“This is a bittersweet day, Mayor Slay’s last meeting,” Greiseheimer said. “Mayor Slay has been a strong advocate for the city of St. Louis and the region as a whole. He’s been passionate and personable. We hate to see him go.”
Jim Wild, executive director of East-West Gateway, praised Slay’s “diligent attendance” at monthly meetings and his “tireless attention” to regional challenges. “Many of the difficult regional issues that we faced 22 years ago remain today, but Mayor Slay’s years on the board show there is hope, hard work pays off, progress is possible and that as a region we struggle and survive best when we communicate and cooperate.”
Slay emphasized that the purpose of the organization was to encourage and implement regional planning and cooperation on major issues that affect the metropolitan area.
“This region is going to sink or swim together. What happens in Madison County in Illinois affects what happens in Jefferson County, Missouri. We have a regional workforce, we have a regional economy, we have regional assets and we have regional challenges. It only makes sense to work together better as a region,” Slay said. “I can’t think of an organization in St. Louis that does that better than East-West Gateway Council of Governments.”
Aside from its main focus on transportation and infrastructure, Slay pointed to other issues addressed by East-West Gateway. “We tackle issues that deal with freight, the environment, sustainability, regional security initiatives, economic development, and beautification – many things that make the region more connected, more of a livable place, and more economically attractive.”
“That is what I like about East-West Gateway Council of Governments. This is what collaboration means, this is what it looks like. This is effective collaboration.”
Slay, after being elected mayor of the city of St. Louis for a record-breaking fourth term, did not run for re-election. The winner of the general municipal election for mayor Tuesday April 4 will determine his replacement.