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Slay's 60th birthday spiced with chocolate, campaign cash — and Biden

Bill Greenblatt/UPI

With family and friends at his side — and the vice president on video — St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay celebrated his 60th birthday in style Wednesday.

The party also fattened his campaign coffers by at least $300,000.

Several hundred supporters turned out to fete the mayor over chocolates, hors d’oeuvres and drinks at Bissinger’s new chocolate-making factory and headquarters in a converted warehouse just north of downtown.

“For me, it’s the beginning of another decade and I’m looking forward to it,’’ Slay said in a brief interview, before taking to the stage to deliver short — and somewhat emotional — remarks.

“The work that I do is represented by the people in this room,’’ Slay said, as he ticked off a few of the highlights of his 14 years in office — and his plans for a few more.

“You are all what make this job fun for me,” he added.

Already the city’s longest-serving mayor, Slay made clear he has no immediate plans to step down.  The $300,000 raised Wednesday will go into his campaign coffers for an unprecedented bid for a fifth term in 2017.

Coupled with his latest campaign-finance report, and financier Rex Sinquefield's $100,000 donated since then, Slay's overall tally appears to have exceeded $1 million.

Mayor Francis Slay's wife, Kim, and their two children look on as the mayor cuts his birthday cake.
Credit Bill Greenblatt/UPI
The mayor's wife, Kim (center), and their two children look on as Slay cuts his birthday cake.

Many in the crowd appeared pleased by the prospect. St. Louis Alderman Steve Conway, D-8th Ward, scanned the crowded room  as he observed, “The broad spectrum of people is indicative of the support the mayor has across the city.”

Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said there’s no question of Slay’s abilities. “We should all be as fit as the mayor,’’ she said, recounting how the mayor — a fitness addict — often runs up the stairs when she and others opt for the elevator.

When asked, Joyce appeared to dispel rumors about her own future by saying she has no plans to run for mayor and will run for re-election in 2016 instead.

The evening’s climax was the surprise appearance by Vice President Joe Biden, via video, who lauded Slay’s service with a trademark mix of jokes laced with sentiment.

The mayor's staff had kept Slay in the dark about the vice presidential greetings, which came in handy when technical glitches delayed the video's airing on a giant screen behind the stage. 

Biden generated laughter as he recalled, in his vintage meandering style, how Saint Louis Browns' Satchel Paige reacted when he “was asked a great question after he won a game on his 47th birthday … . ‘How’s it feel, Satch?’ He looked at them and he said, ‘Boys, let me tell you, the way I look at it is, how old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?’

“Well, I don’t know about you, Mr. Mayor.  I think you’re about 40, I’m 42,” quipped Biden — who’s 72.

Biden then got serious, praising Slay’s involvement in the renovation of the Arch grounds, and the duo’s common interest in reducing gun violence.

“Mr. Mayor, you’re living proof of what the great Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran meant when he wrote, ‘You get but little when you give of your possessions. It’s when you give of yourself that you truly give … .’ ”

But what cheered Slay the most, the mayor quipped later, was Biden’s sign-off, in which he referred to him as “old buddy.”

Slay explained he was grateful that Biden didn't emphasize the word "old."

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.