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From City Hall to Jefferson City, 2 St. Louisans are moving up

Alderman Donna Baringer D-16th Ward (center) receives a resolution from her colleagues on Dec. 16, 2016, her last day at the Board of Aldermen.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
Alderman Donna Baringer D-16th Ward (center) receives a resolution from her colleagues on Dec. 16, her last day at the Board of Aldermen.

Two former St. Louis aldermen will be among the new lawmakers joining the Missouri General Assembly next year.

Fred Wessels, who was the 13th Ward alderman until he took a job in the mayor's office until 2013, ran unopposed for the 81st House District seat in southeast St. Louis. A former colleague from City Hall, Donna Baringer, D-16th Ward, easily won the state House seat in the neighboring 82nd District. She officially resigns her city position on Dec. 31.

Alderman Shane Cohn, D-25th Ward, served with both Wessels and Baringer on the Board of Aldermen. He said he looks forward to working with both of the new state representatives on issues that affect St. Louis.

"I think Jefferson City needs stronger voices such as yourself, and I think you’ll be a welcome addition to the St. Louis city coalition," Cohn said, addressing the new legislators. The 25th Ward borders Wessels' old 13th Ward.

Wessels and Baringer will not have much power at the Capitol — they'll be two of just 53 Democratic lawmakers, compared to 144 Republicans. But Wessels said on thePolitically Speaking podcast that he doesn't think he'll be wasting his time.

"Even being in a superminority, there are issues where we can come together on a bipartisan basis. And that's what I plan to do and work toward," Wessels said.
Baringer, a native of Jefferson City, told the Board of Aldermen in a farewell speech this month that driving across the Missouri River on Highway 54 and seeing the state Capitol will feel different now.

"Because, while the Board of Aldermen will be in the rear view mirror, it will be solidified in my heart, and I will be working very hard for the city of St. Louis at the state level,” Baringer said.

The special election to replace Baringer at the Board of Aldermen will be at the same time as the 2017 races for the odd numbered wards. Filing for the 16th Ward primary opens Tuesday, Jan. 3.

The Politically Speaking team contributed to this report.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.