Slay Taps Roth As Head Of Human Services; Stenger Announces Appointments
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay appointed his deputy chief of staff, Eddie Roth, as the next director of the Department of Human Services.
Roth will oversee five divisions: Homeless Services, the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging, Veterans Affairs, Youth and Family Services, and the Office on the Disabled.
His predecessor, Bill Siedhoff, retired last month after serving for more than 13 years as director.
"Bill Siedhoff is a giant," Roth said in an interview. "He was a leading figure in providing social services in Missouri, so I have immensely big shoes to fill."
Even the organization that has sparred with City Hall on homeless issues had kind things to say about Siedhoff.
"He has been a real powerful figure in human services in the region," Chris Rice, a pastor at New Life Evangelistic Center, said. "It's kind of dizzying how important he was -- not just for the city of St. Louis but throughout the region."
In the past, the organization has been an outspoken critic of how the city has handled the homeless. Rice did express unease, however, in Roth's background.
"To me, it's disappointing. Roth has experience as an attorney and as a reporter and within the mayor's office. It's much better to tap someone from the mental-health community or someone who has some experience in public health."
Roth was formerly an editorial writer with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before coming to City Hall in 2011.
"I should say that I'm not new to many of the different kind of services the department offers," Roth said. "I did a lot of reporting; I immersed myself in the social service community. That doesn't make me an expert, but it makes me familiar with the culture and the opportunities."
Roth added that he was confident he "comes pretty far along on the learning curve" and that his predecessor would be nearby to provide guidance.
The department's budget is more than $20 million, with almost all of it being federal grant money. Roth says his first objective is getting through the cold of winter, a time when services are vital for the homeless.
Stenger builds his administration
Meanwhile, St. Louis County Executive-elect Steve Stenger announced two major positions within his administration.
Stenger – a Democrat from Affton – picked Mike Chapman as his director of operations. Chapman will be in charge of keeping tabs of the day-to-day functions of county government and reporting about it to Stenger. Glenn Campbell, a spokesman for Stenger’s transition, said Chapman will have some similar duties to St. Louis County chief operating officer Garry Earls – though not entirely.
Chapman is currently Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger’s legislative assistant. Before he started working for the Town and Country Republican, Chapman was Gov. Matt Blunt’s Homeland Security director. He’s also held federal positions with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of State.
Stenger tapped Cordell Whitlock to be his director of communications; he will serve as the point person for the media. Whitlock worked at KSDK as a reporter until he left the station in 2009.
After he takes office on Jan. 1, Stenger is expected to replace many of St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley’s appointees and department heads. He’s put together a transition team to help him find qualified people and provide him with advice about how to organize his administration.