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Slay's Chief Of Staff To Step Down After 13 Years To Become Consultant

St. Louis City Hall
Richie Diesterheft | Flickr
St. Louis City Hall

(Will be updated.)

After holding the position for more than a decade, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay's chief of staff will step down early next month.

Jeff Rainford took the position in 2001, making him the longest-serving chief of staff in the history of the city, according to the mayor's office.

Jeff Rainford, chief of staff to Mayor Slay (file photo)
Jeff Rainford

"It has been thrilling, maddening, and challenging," Rainford said in a written statement. "But I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. It has been an absolute privilege to serve Mayor Slay and the people of St. Louis. I am very grateful for the opportunity."

Rainford, a former TV reporter, plans to resurrect his old consulting business. He says he won't take on new clients until he has formally left the mayor's office.

Rainford is known in City Hall for his strong drive and his short temper. He has been the mayor's chief defender, enforcer and -- when necessary -- political bulldog. It usually was Rainford who lobbed the strongly worded public statements or accusations, allowing the mayor to take a more conciliatory tone.

Rainford will be replaced by Mary Ellen Ponder, who has worked in the mayor's office since 2009.

"I have a longer fuse than Jeff. I’ll probably do a lot more listening," Ponder said, laughing. "Anybody that talks with Jeff knows he talks a lot. I’ll probably do a lot more listening.”

Credit via the mayor's office.
Mary Ellen Ponder

  She will be the first female chief of staff in the city's history, according to the mayor's office.

Ponder is "a seasoned policy and decision maker," Slay said. "She is tough when she needs to be.  She is also fair."

"I expect to continue to rely on [Rainford's] friendship and counsel," Slay said in a statement. "I wish Jeff the very best, and I am very confident in his continued success."

The mayor's office also announced that Patrick Brown will become deputy chief of staff. Among other things, Brown has worked on Slay's legislative agenda in the Board of Aldermen. Last month, Slay appointed his deputy chief of staff to the director of the Department of Human Services.

"I think what you're seeing is just a complete and comprehensive strategy on the mayor's part to reorganize his staff in the next two years and get ready for another term," Ponder said.

Slay is currently in his fourth four-year term, making him already the longest-serving mayor in the city's history.