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Ernie Trakas elected presiding officer of St. Louis County Council

Featured Images: District six councilman Ernie Trakas takes a moment during a St. Louis County Council meeting on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 in the St. Louis County Council chambers in Clayton. Trakas was unanimously voted to the position of chair of the St. Louis County Council later in the meeting.

CLAYTON — After a dizzying series of events in St. Louis County government, the GOP controls the County Council for the first time in 13 years, with Republican Ernie Trakas at the helm.

The council voted 5-0 Tuesday to elect Trakas, R-6th District, as presiding officer. Under the county charter he is to carry out the chairman’s duties for the remainder of this year. The move was necessary after the resignations of Democrats Sam Page and Hazel Erby left the council without a chairman and vice chair.

The council named Page as county executive April 29 after the resignation of County Executive Steve Stenger on the same day of his indictment in a federal pay-to-play sting. Erby announced last week she was leaving the council to join Page’s administration, but she delayed her departure until this week to preside over one final meeting.

The departures mean the GOP now holds a 3-2 advantage on the council. The council plans to hold special elections in August to fill Page’s and Erby’s seats.
Behind the scenes, Councilman Mark Harder, R-7th District, had been competing hard with Trakas for their colleagues’ support until a few hours before Tuesday’s meeting. But the race was quietly settled before Erby called the meeting to order; Harder nominated Trakas.

Erby has represented the 1st District, which includes University City and several communities in north St. Louis County, since 2004. She was the first Democrat to break with Stenger, and with Page and Trakas helped form the bipartisan alliance on the council that sought to check Stenger’s power and have him removed.

She thanked a crowd of supporters. “I’m grateful for the friendships and relationships that I’ve built throughout St. Louis County and St. Louis city as well,” she said. As the county’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion, she said she would always speak up for county residents, “particularly the underserved.”

A choked-up Trakas told Erby that “I hope to emulate your leadership.” He said he hoped to continue the council’s track record of “accountable, transparent and good government.”

Page, who has promised to attend council meetings, was traveling for a meeting related to his medical practice. He joined via video conference from Washington flanked by U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City, and U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin.
“I have been here in D.C. the past couple of days and have been meeting with our region’s legislative delegation here,” he said. “I updated them on some of our administration’s priorities. And at the top of that list is setting new ethical standards for St. Louis County government and untangling the mess the previous county executive left behind.”

He said he learned there that a federal grant for the county’s prescription drug monitoring program had been extended, allowing other counties to use the program for another two years. And he said he had met with Clay about efforts to improve the quality of life in north St. Louis County, which he called one of his first priorities.

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