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Carol Howard looks back on a lifetime of service to St. Louis

Alderwoman Carol Howard sits at her desk.
Carol Howard
Carol Howard, who is retiring after 13 years as alderwoman of the 14th Ward, at her desk at City Hall

Carol Howard spent the first 30 years of her professional life in the hallways of St. Louis public schools.

After retiring, she moved into the political arena as the Democratic committeewoman in the 14th Ward, where she has lived all her life.

Howard had no real plans to move up in the political echelon. But a 2010 phone call she took while in the Miami airport changed that.

“I was on my way to Ecuador to visit a friend, and I got a call saying, ‘Hey, [former alderman Stephen] Gregali’s quitting, would you be interested?’” Howard said.

Howard talked to her friends and her husband, who all said, why not? She handily won the 2010 special election to fill out Gregali’s term and had no opponents in the contests for her first two full terms. But she won her third election in 2019 by just 53 votes and found the tone of the race distressing.

With the internet, things got more personal, she said. “And it was like whoa, you know, this is more than I ever anticipated. I thought it was a really ugly campaign.”

In retirement, Howard plans to golf, paint and bring her standard poodle Contessa to veterans homes and children's hospitals. Here’s what else she discussed on the podcast:

  • In addition to changing the nature of campaigns, social media like Twitter and Facebook permanently altered the job of alderperson. “It was like, you're supposed to be available on Facebook, you're supposed to be available on Twitter, you know, and it's just like, that's so invasive,” she said.
  • Because she was leaving the board, Howard took on the responsibility of shepherding through a pay raise. Aldermen who take office in April will make $72,000, up from $36,000. “People were telling me, ‘Oh, that's too much,’ so I said, ‘Hand me an amendment,’” she said. “I didn't get an amendment. I was really kind of disappointed.”
  • Howard hopes that progressives who are securing more and more positions of power “are able to keep the sights of the citizens of St. Louis in the forefront and make our city better so that people will want to live here and grow here.”
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.