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County councilman Stenger uses own money to hire PR firm

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 24, 2009 - At first glance, the release sent out this week for St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger read like the standard campaign literature.

"St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger, a fiscally conservative democrat and rising star in St. Louis politics, garnered a stream of media attention in 2008 when he defeated the seemingly invincible, two-term republican incumbent John Campisi in the District 6 race for county councilman.

"Wonder how he did it? Wonder what he’s up to now? He’d love to discuss that with you!

Hiring a PR firm is standard for politicians during campaigns. But Stenger, who was just elected last November, isn't running for anything at the moment.

And he's not using campaign or county dollars to pay for the services of Musen Steinbach Weiss Image Works Public Relations, the firm that sent out the release. The firm's executives include former Chesterfield Mayor Fred Steinbach.

Stenger says he hired the firm with his own money to "help me manage my time."

"I had numerous people contacting from all different organizations,'' said Stenger, who continues to do work as a lawyer and an accountant. "This is me wanting to interface more effectively with the public."

When asked how much he was paying the firm, Stenger said, "I'd rather not say."

Stenger added that all of his campaign fundraising was aimed currently at retiring his debt of $150,000, which is owed to himself.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.