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Politically Speaking: Rep.-elect Wessels on his shift from City Hall to the State Captiol

Fred Wessels Dec 2016
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are pleased to welcome state Rep.-elect Fred Wessels to the program.

The St. Louis Democrat — a former alderman and city official — was elected this fall to represent the 81st House District, which takes in most of southeast St. Louis. He defeated two other Democrats, Steve Butz and Adam Kustra, in August, which was tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic district.

Wessels accumulated a diverse professional history throughout the years. His job as a hospital administrator took him to Saudi Arabia. He also was the executive director of St. Louis Peregrine Society, which helps cancer patients.

He was first elected to the Board of Aldermen in the 1980s, and represented the 13th Ward until the end of 2013.  At that time, Wessels resigned from his seat to become St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s director of the Community Development Administration. He served in that job until earlier this year, when he retired to run for state representative.

Wessels will be sworn into office with the rest of the General Assembly on Jan. 4. He recently embarked on a bus tour of the state with his fellow House freshmen, which included stops to most of the state’s colleges and universities.

Here’s what Wessels had to say during the show:

  • He was surprised St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson initially announced he was running for mayor – and wanted to keep his job as police chief. That became a moot point when Dotson pulled the plug on his mayoral bid, but Wessels noted that “part of the deal” of taking a city-level cabinet position is “you can’t file for political office and be a city director.”
  • He said he’s a big support of a prescription drug database, a proposal that’s run into Missouri Senate opposition over the last few years. Wessels said the fact that many cities and counties have signed up for a local exchange may make a statewide database easier to pass.
  • Because Wessels will be entering into a Democratic superminority, he says he’ll try to work with Republicans on issues with bipartisan consensus – such as policies that improve conditions for disabled Missourians and bolster mental health programs.
  • Wessels is backing St. Louis Alderman Lyda Krewson’s bid for mayor. The 28th Ward alderman is in a seven-way race that includes two people Wessels ran against during his unsuccessful bid for city treasurer – Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, D-22nd Ward, and St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Fred Wessels on Twitter: @fredwessels

Music: “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” by The Doors

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.