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Lyda Krewson: Being St. Louis Mayor Was ‘Honor Of A Lifetime’

Lyda Krewson in a February 2017 file photo.
File photo / Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio
Lyda Krewson has spent the past 24 years serving the City of St. Louis — first as alderwoman of the 28th Ward, then as mayor.

In 2017, Lyda Krewson was elected as the city’s top executive, making her the first woman to win the job. Four years later, she’s set to retire, marking an end to 24 years in public service.

What was Lyda Krewson's legacy?
On this edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum and Rachel Lippmann break down Krewson's legacy as mayor.

“It’s been the honor of a lifetime to be able to serve as mayor of the City of St. Louis,” she told Sarah Fenske on Thursday on St. Louis on the Air. “I made the final decision [to retire] over my birthday weekend back in November, where it dawned on me that in another six months, I'm going to be 69 years old. … And so for me, I thought this is time to retire and to be able to do some other things while I'm still in, as far as I know, great health.”

Krewson first ran for elected office in 1989, when she sought a seat on the St. Louis Public Schools Board. She lost that race. But her husband’s slaying in 1995 spurred her to run for office again. She ran for a seat on the Board of Aldermen, won and served the 28th Ward from 1997 to 2017.

As mayor, Krewson presided over the city during a difficult time. A few months into her role, former St. Louis Metropolitan Police officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty of first-degree murder, sparking months of community protest over a police shooting that happened six years earlier.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, the city was in the middle of a budget crisis. Throughout her term, gun violence ravaged the city

“I was happy to be mayor during this tumultuous time,” Krewson said, “because I think it was a time that required a lot of civility, compromise and a very calm and steady way of dealing with these issues. I try to bring no drama to the situation.”

One of the things she’s most proud of is her administration’s response to the pandemic.

“We track the rate per 100,000 people every single day for all of the counties in our region here. And the City of St. Louis has been consistently and considerably lower than other counties,” Krewson said.

She gives credit to her constituents, “because we’ve had a mask mandate in place since last July, and for the most part, the people of the City of St. Louis have followed that mask mandate,” she said. “I think that has made a difference. They have followed the social distancing. The businesses have gone out of their way to follow all of our many, many guidelines.”

Q&A with Mayor Lyda Krewson
St. Louis' outgoing mayor speaks with STLPR political reporter Rachel Lippmann

Krewson’s four years in office were not without criticism. Her detractors say she was unable to close St. Louis' Medium Security Institution, also known as the Workhouse. They also criticize her for closing the New Life Evangelistic Center homeless shelter and for reading the names and street addresses of protesters who called on the city to defund the police department in 2020.

Regarding whether she has any regrets: “When you're an elected official, you can't look back. You have to look forward every single day, and you have to try to do better today than you did yesterday and the day before that. So, by and large, I'm really proud of the accomplishments that my team and all of my directors made over these last four years.”

The outgoing mayor has no plans to leave St. Louis. She said that she’s lived in the city for about 36 years, and she doesn’t imagine living anywhere else.

“I plan to take more walks in Forest Park and get more cups of coffee,” Krewson said. “I'll probably be sighted a lot more at the coffee shop.”

Mayor-elect Tishaura Jones’ inauguration is April 20.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.