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With defeat of Troupe, Tyus poised to return to Board of Aldermen

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 7, 2013 - Sharon Tyus didn’t know until Wednesday morning whether she would be going back to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. That’s because Tyus went to sleep before she knew the results in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, which she described as one of her “little quirks” she’s picked up during her political career.

When she woke up, Tyus discovered she had unseated Alderman Charles “Quincy” Troupe in the primary to represent the north St. Louis 1st Ward. Tyus racked up 47.73 percent of the vote, compared to Troupe’s 34.01 percent and Yolanda Brown’s 18.26 percent.  

If she prevails in next month's general election, Tyus says she’s ready to get to work to “clean up” the ward that encompasses Kingsway East and Kingsway West, Mark Twain, Penrose, Walnut Park East and Wells Goodfellow.

“I want people to know that this is their ward,” Tyus said. “It doesn’t belong to Sharon Tyus. It doesn’t belong to Charles 'Quincy' Troupe or anybody else. It’s what they say.”

Tuesday’s win marks a comeback of sorts for Tyus, an attorney who currently serves as the 1st Ward’s Democratic committeewoman. She had represented the 20th Ward on the board during the 1990s but got shut out in a redistricting plan that shifted that ward across town. She had accused Mayor Francis Slay’s then-new administration in 2001 of being behind the plan.

Since then, she tried twice to oust Troupe but failed. She also unsuccessfully sought a state representative seat, a race won by now-state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis. She was also an unlikely ally in getting Joe Keaveny the nomination for the 4th District state Senate seat.

When asked how she defeated Troupe this time after two unsuccessful attempts, Tyus credited her campaign team and a 2011 redistricting plan that added favorable terrain.

“At no time has it been a big difference, it’s always been a very close race,” Tyus said. “Redistricting put much of my ward back together. … He had a portion of the ward that was very familiar with him. And I had a portion of the ward that was very familiar with me. So this time, he lost a lot more of his old ward. And really what they’re calling the 1st Ward is two-thirds of the old 20th Ward – where I was unbeatable.

“Once redistricting happened, it was whether I wanted to run or not basically,” she added. “I’ll just leave it at that. I don’t have anything negative to say against him.”

Tyus stressed that Tuesday’s victory doesn’t assure her of a return to the board. She says it’s possible that she could face an independent candidate in the general election, adding “until the filing date passes, I’m prepared that there might be another election.”

But if she does win on April 2, Tyus said her priorities include making sure properties within the ward are up to code. She also would like to bring more retail development to the area.

“I had the opportunity to see what other parts of the city had,” said Tyus, noting she had lived in south St. Louis and the Central West End. “And I when I moved to north city almost 27 years ago, I was appalled at the lack of retail. We worked 12 years just to get a Walgreen’s while they were putting Walgreen’s on every corner of south St. Louis on Kingshighway. We want to get our development going back. We want to green up the ward.”

She also said she wants to be attentive to constituent concerns, adding she was already answering plenty of phone calls as a committeewoman. “All of the people who called me today or yesterday – I call them back. They should have accessibility to their alderman or alderwoman,” she said. “They have a right to call me, they have a right to fuss at me, they have a right to demand things – I’ll give them that.”

But more than any particular issue, one thing worth watching is Tyus’ relationship with Slay. When asked if it was an accurate assessment to say her relationship with Slay hasn’t been great over the years, Tyus responded, “That’s fair.”

“My priorities are not what the mayor wants to do,” Tyus said. “I guess I’m one of the few people that understand that the mayor is the weak system. And the Board of Aldermen is the power.”

While she said she doesn’t see herself “as being anything for or against the mayor,” she added “if you don’t come and talk to me and you don’t try to show me that your way is better, then I don’t have to vote for it.

“I can read just as well as the mayor can or anybody else down there. I have a probably better understanding of the Board of Aldermen than many people,” Tyus said. “And so, if you want me to vote for [your priorities], you have to show why that’s in the best interest of the community, my ward. Then we’re talking. If you’re just saying ‘vote with me because I want it,’ that’s not usually how it’s going to operate and I don’t intend to operate like that.”

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.