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Politically Speaking: Alderman Dan Guenther On #CloseTheWorkhouse, Freeholders And Pot

St. Louis Alderman Dan Guenther, D-9th Ward, poses for a portrait in the St. Louis Public Radio studios on March 11, 2020.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Alderman Dan Guenther, D-9th Ward, poses for a portrait in the St. Louis Public Radio studios.

Dan Guenther, the first-term alderman for St. Louis’ 9th Ward, is the latest guest on the Politically Speaking podcast.

Before being elected in 2017 to represent the ward, which covers part of seven south St. Louis neighborhoods including Soulard, Benton Park and Kosciusko, Guenther worked for Operation Brightside and with former Mayor Francis Slay’s Office of Sustainability.

He says his three years on the Board of Aldermen have been “quite an adventure.” 

“It’s one of those things where every day, it’s a new challenge, and you learn something new,” he said. “I like to say it’s everything I expected and much, much more.”

Although Guenther was familiar with the way City Hall worked from his previous job, he said he was surprised by certain things after becoming an alderman.

“The communication between departments is obviously something we need to work on,” he said. “It’s interesting that you go to the building division and they can’t tell you what zoning has done, or what excise has done. You kind of have to figure out who your liaison is with each individual department. A lot of times, no one phone call gets you answers.”

Here’s what else Guenther discussed on the podcast:

  • Though a resolution outlining a plan to close the north St. Louis jail known as the Workhouse has stalled in committee, Guenther believes 2020 will be the year there’s movement on the issue. “It’s encouraging that we now have other elected officials, such as the mayor, coming out saying that their overall goal is eventually to get to one facility,” he said.
  • Guenther sits on the committee that is vetting the nominees to the Board of Freeholders, a process that has been at a standstill due to a dispute between the aldermen and the mayor. Just recently, the chair of that committee, Samuel Moore, died after a long illness. But Guenther is optimistic the city will eventually approve its members. “As of last week, the vice chair said she’s been having successful meetings with the mayor’s office,” he said. “They seem to be coming to an agreement that will hopefully not only have representation north of Delmar but will also have some LGBT and also a Hispanic representative on there.”
  • With medical marijuana already legal in Missouri and efforts underway to approve recreational use, Guenther said the city needs to start evaluating its policies around drug testing employees, and possible expungement of low-level drug convictions.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Dan Guenther on Twitter: @DanGuentherSTL

Music: “You Might Think” by the Cars

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