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Politically Speaking: Recorder Of Deeds Michael Butler On His New Job — And St. Louis’ Future

St. Louis Recorder of Deeds Michael Butler
Ryan Delaney I St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Recorder of Deeds Michael Butler

St. Louis Recorder of Deeds Michael Butler is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where he joined St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum to talk about his first few weeks on the job.

Butler was elected to the citywide office in November 2018 after defeating longtime incumbent Sharon Carpenter in a Democratic primary. His office is responsible for issuing birth and death certificates, as well as filing real estate deeds.

Before jumping into the recorder of deeds race last year, Butler served for three terms in the Missouri House. He was a member of the House Budget Committee and captured a leadership position as the Democratic caucus chairman.

On the surface, Butler’s challenge of Carpenter seemed daunting. She had been recorder of deeds since 1980 and developed a solid base of support in southwest St. Louis — a part of the city that tends to turn out voters at a high rate. But Butler ended up winning a majority of the city’s wards and ended up nearly beating Carpenter in some key south St. Louis wards.

In addition to his elected positions, Butler has been the 6th Ward Democratic committeeman since 2016. He recently was elected as the chairman of the St. Louis Democratic Party Central Committee, which often chooses Democratic nominees for local or state offices when there’s a vacancy before the end of a term.

Here’s what Butler had to say on the show:

  • Butler said he was frustrated with his inability to change policy as a Democrat in the Republican-controlled Missouri House, which was one of the reasons he decided to run for office in heavily Democratic St. Louis. “I felt like I could come back to City Hall and do some things locally,” he said.
  • He said that he’s seen a big change in the electoral behavior of some largely white wards. Butler said many people in places that traditionally didn’t vote for black candidates are giving people like him a chance.
  • One of Butler’s priorities is to allow people to order online copies of certain documents, like birth certificates. Now, a person has to go to the recorder of deeds office in downtown St. Louis for such documentation. “My vision is you no longer have to go to City Hall to access your city government. You can access those items online the same as you access your bank account,” he said. “I think in 2019, people if they have to go to City Hall, they’re not happy with their experience.”
  • Butler said there are aspects of a merger between St. Louis and St. Louis County that make sense. But he said that it doesn’t get at the big problem in the St. Louis region: hostility between white and black residents. “It’s not about the demographics of the city and demographics of the county. It’s about our racial differences,” he said. “And when you realize that, city-county merger’s not going to fix that.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Follow Michael Butler on Twitter: @RecorderButler

Music: “Hang Me Out to Dry” by Cold War Kids

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.