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Bob Baer's tenure at Metro honored by new UMSL scholarship

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 22, 2010 - Retiring Metro CEO Bob Baer is being honored with a new scholarship named for him, announced Dick Fleming, president of the Regional Chamber and Growth Association today.

The Robert J. Baer Endowed Scholarship in Public Policy Administration at the University of Missouri at St. Louis will be awarded annually to a student in public administration, Fleming said. The announcement was made this morning at John Nations' first Metro board meeting as Metro's new CEO.

The scholarship "will have its home at the city's only public research institution," UMSL Vice Chancellor Martin Leifeld, said. He said the new scholarship will "truly be the premier public policy award at the University of Missouri St. Louis and serve as an invaluable resource to the university to recruit local students." The hope is the scholarship will train students who will stay in the community in roles of leadership, he said.

"Thanks to all of you for the kind comments," Baer said. "I'm not sure I deserve them but I appreciate them."

Baer said that although he wants to spend more time with his family, he also wants to stay active in the public arena. "I want to stay involved in the region," he said. "I love the region. I'm committed to it. I'm not sure how I'll help. But if I can, you know I will."

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said they will soon begin raising funds to endow the scholarship. The money will come from private sources.

Leifeld said the endowment has an "ambitious goal of a minimum of $250,000." But, he added, Fleming, Slay, Dooley feel the amount "can be far exceeded."

Fleming said Baer was being honored for his many years of public service including heading Metro for three years on what was to be a six-month interim term until a new leader could be found after the departure of former CEO Larry Salci.

Baer also headed the Metropolitan Sewer District in the past and was instrumental in the bringing the National Football League back to St. Louis with the financing and creation of the Dome, Fleming said.

Fleming, Dooley and Slay lauded Baer for his years of public service.

"He didn't need this job," Slay said of Baer's position at Metro. "We were very fortunate that Bob Baer was there ready to go and stepped up at a very difficult time."

"One of the things I was told in this community was, 'If you're having difficulty with something, Bob Baer is the guy to go to,'" Dooley said.

Baer turned things around the Metropolitan Sewer district, he said.

"He did the same thing with Metro. Bob came on board at a very difficult time. It's easy to come on board when things are going good. But to come on board when things are going badly and you know you got a challenge ahead of you, that speaks to the individual about leadership."

The scholarship "couldn't be named for a better person," Dooley said. When it comes to "public policy engagment in our community, Bob Baer is at the top of the list. If you listed the three top people from my perspective it would, Bob Baer, Bob Baer and Bob Baer. He gets things done."

Kathie Sutin, a freelance writer in St. Louis, frequently covers transportation,