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Politically Speaking: Ponder on chief of staff role, police review board and keeping the Rams

Mary Ellen Ponder
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

On this edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Jo Mannies and Rachel Lippmann welcome Mary Ellen Ponder to the show. 

Ponder was recently appointed chief of staff for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, replacing Jeff Rainford. She is the first woman to serve as chief of staff for a St. Louis mayor.

A south St. Louis County native, Ponder worked in various political and governmental capacities for Slay. She helped run Slay’s successful 2009 and 2013 campaigns and helped change how community development block grants are divided up in the city.

As chief of staff, Ponder oversees the city’s chief of operations – who in turn monitors all of Slay’s cabinet members. That means she’s in charge of  “the strategy, the vision and the policymakers decisions” for the mayor – making Ponder one of the most influential figures in the city's government.

Ponder with St. Louis Public Radio reporter Rachel Lippmann.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio
Ponder with St. Louis Public Radio reporter Rachel Lippmann.

During the show, Ponder said:

  • She returned to St. Louis in 2008 to work with the AFL-CIO. Political consultant Michael Kelley gave her name to Rainford, who subsequently interviewed her to be deputy campaign manager in Slay’s 2009 re-election campaign.
  • Slay is a “willing partner” in pushing for policies popular among the young, such as bolstering bicycle infrastructure. Slay "understands that bringing the younger or youngish population to the city is what is going to keep us moving forward,” she said.
  • The Board of Aldermen is expected to send Slay legislation setting up a civilian review board in April. “There’s a lot of ownership and pride in the compromise bill that is there right now,” she said.
  • The city needs to keep the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Losing the facility would mean that the city would lose several million in earnings tax and thousands of jobs, she said.
  • Both Gov. Jay Nixon and Slay are committed to building a new football stadium on St. Louis’ riverfront. “We have a great team in place that’s working on this and at a quick pace,” she said.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Follow Mary Ellen Ponder on Twitter: @mepstl

Music: "Time to Pretend" by MGMT and "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
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.
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.