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Krewson Will Not Seek Second Term As Mayor, Announces Retirement From Public Office

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announces that the US General Services Administration and US Department of Agriculture will relocate more than 1,000 jobs to downtown St. Louis, on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.
File photo / Bill Greenblatt
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, seen in June, announced Wednesday that she would not seek a second term.

Updated at 6:18 p.m. Nov. 18 with comment from public officials and activists

The first female mayor in St. Louis history will not seek a second term in office.

“This past weekend, I had a birthday,” Mayor Lyda Krewson said at a press conference announcing her decision Wednesday. “Birthdays are good. And of course, they also make you think about the future. After a lot of thinking and a lot of discussion with my family, I have decided to retire in April and not file to run for reelection this coming Monday.”

Krewson, 68, called her term as mayor “the biggest honor of my life.”

“It’s the people who have made it so great,” she said, “the people of St. Louis, and the thousands of great people who work for our city.”

Krewson acknowledged that her nearly four years as mayor have been challenging. The city has faced multiple reckonings around racism and policing, first in 2017 after the acquittal of Jason Stockley and again after the death of George Floyd in 2020. Homicides have reached near-record levels this year. And the coronavirus pandemic punched a large hole in the city’s budget.

But Krewson said she remains optimistic.

“Our city still has great momentum,” she said. “Over $10 billion in development, either recently completed or under construction. The momentum that we had before COVID is not gone. It is providing jobs today. And it will provide more jobs in the future.”

Krewson faced demands to resign over the summer after she read out the names and addresses of individuals who had written her letters calling for police reforms, something for which she later apologized.

She said they did not factor into her decision.

“I have to say that I am so glad to have had the opportunity to serve as mayor and lead during these challenging last four years,” she said, including during “the civil unrest over the shortcomings of our criminal justice system, a racial reckoning that has been a long time in the making.”

Butprotesters still took credit for creating an environment in which they said Krewson felt she could not win a second term.

“The mayor of STL just announced she isn’t seeking re-election in 2021,” Kayla Reed, the executive director of Action St. Louis, said on Twitter. “An open race is before us and an opportunity to BUILD progressive power in this city. Let’s get ready.”

Prior to running for mayor, Krewson served as alderwoman for the 28th Ward, representing the Central West End and Forest Park. In addition, she was also the chief financial officer for PGAV, an architecture and planning firm.

Krewson was born in Iowa but graduated from high school in Moberly, about 150 miles northwest of St. Louis. She came to St. Louis to study accounting at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Her first husband, Jeff, was slain in an attempted carjacking in 1995, which led to Krewson’s advocacy for gun control.

Krewson said Wednesday that “lots of folks” told her to move after husband’s death, but she did not want to pull her two children, Taylor and Jack, away from their friends and their school.

“We stayed and a couple of years later, I decided to try and make our neighborhood better,” she said.

Lyda Krewson, surrounded by family, friends and campaign staffers, checks an update after 85 percent of precincts were tallied. (March 8, 2917)
File photo / Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio
Lyda Krewson (center) was surrounded by family, friends and campaign staffers watching Democratic primary election results roll in on March 8, 2017. She narrowly bested a crowded field of candidates to win the Democratic nomination.

Krewson was facing stiff competition for an incumbent. Treasurer Tishaura Jones, who had come within 800 votes of winning the Democratic primary in 2017, announced a second bid for the office two weeks ago. Alderwoman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, has been officially running since January, and Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed has established a campaign committee to support his run. A fourth candidate, businesswoman Dana Kelly, is also campaigning.

Recent changes to city election laws could have swayed Krewson’s decision, said Anita Manion, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Voters in November approved Proposition D, which made the offices of mayor, comptroller, alderman and board president nonpartisan positions. Voters will choose as many candidates as they want in the March primary, a process known as approval voting, and the top two candidates will run against each other in the April general election.

“With the new format, if that were in place in 2017, we would have seen Tishaura Jones and Lyda Krewson facing off in the general election,” Manion said. “I suspect Proposition D passing was the nail in the coffin there.”

The Rev. Darryl Gray, a community activist, agreed with Manion.

“You have to go back to her winning in a crowded field of six or seven people and not winning a majority. And the people that put her in basically were people who were within her political silo,” he said. “Now, you’ve got Proposition D, which means you can’t do politics as usual.”

Gray applauded Krewson for appointing John Hayden as chief of the St. Louis Police Department and for bringing in senior advisers from the African American community.

“She sought to be open. She sought to make herself available to the community. But I just don't think that she was able to personally fathom the level of injustice, racism and discrimination that Black people face on a daily basis,” he said.

Mayor Lyda Krewson concludes her speech after being sworn in as the first woman mayor of St. Louis. (April 18, 2017)
File photo / Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio
Krewson concludes her speech at City Hall after being sworn in as mayor of St. Louis on April 18, 2017.

Local politicians react

In a statement, Jones thanked Krewson for her service to the city.

“To any supporter of Mayor Krewson, know that I will be working over the coming months to earn your vote and earn your support. Every person in St. Louis is on my mind when I craft policy and when I go to work every day, and you are no different,” she said.

Spencer, who served on the Board of Aldermen with Krewson for two years, said in a Tweet that she wished the mayor the best in retirement.

“While I have disagreed often with the mayor, I know her heart was in the right place and her love for the City is genuine,” Spencer said.

Reed called it “an honor” to have worked alongside Krewson since he was elected 6th Ward alderman in 2007.

“I commend Mayor Lyda Krewson on her many years of service to the City of St. Louis,” he said. “Her dedication and commitment to the City of St. Louis has never wavered.”

In a statement, comptroller Darlene Green, the first woman to hold that post, called it “my honor to serve alongside our first woman elected as Mayor. I salute Lyda Krewson’s many years of service to the people of St. Louis. Congratulations and best wishes to her in retirement.”

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said he was “grateful for Lyda’s friendship and regional leadership,” although the two sometimes seemed to have a strained relationship. Krewson was much closer to Page’s predecessor, Steve Stenger.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Sarah Fentem, Andrea Henderson and Brent Jones contributed to this report

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