HAMILTON HEIGHTS – The race for alderman in the 22nd Ward features a ward-newcomer challenging a longtime incumbent in an area that houses two of the city’s most high-crime and blighted neighborhoods.
Only two candidates, incumbent Jeffrey Boyd and challenger Tonya Finley-McCaw, filed to run in the March 5th Democratic primary. The winner will not face opposition in the April 2 general election. The holder of the position will receive a salary of $37,299.
In the order of filing, here is information about the two candidates.
Alderman Boyd has served on the Board of Aldermen since 2003. He made himself available late Saturday morning while mopping the floor of his two-year-old banquet rental hall, The Best Place, located on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. The hall also features a free space with Wi-Fi for residents to meet.
“We’re in the heart of the West Side, in two of the toughest neighborhoods in town, but I am committed to spending money in this neighborhood and making a difference,” he said. “It didn’t matter what it took – I wanted to show people that we could have something nice on this side of town.”
Boyd, who is chairman of the Streets, Traffic and Refuse Committee, says there are many challenges in his ward, citing a need for new development projects and a reduction in homicides, drug use and prostitution. Despite the challenges, Boyd said he’s proud of the strides he has made in the area.
“I feel good about my race: I have the wind, I work tirelessly over here and my record speaks for itself,” he said.
The veteran alderman’s record includes a bill that designates $40 million to weatherize Land Revitalization Association homes, which would help the city sell many of the the hundreds of vacant properties in its inventory and get them back on the tax rolls.
Boyd said his greatest accomplishment as an alderman has been Arlington Grove, a $34 million redevelopment of Arlington School near the corner of Burd Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. To help attract development, Boyd had the school added to the National Historic Registrar in the early 2000s so that tax credits could be offered.
Boyd, who had been criticized for his close relationship with former Mayor Francis Slay, said “I was waiting and imploring for someone to come into our neighborhood and look at our gold mine of opportunities, and with good relationships with the mayor’s office and the housing authority, I was able to make it happen,” he said.
Boyd claims his challenger, Finley-McCaw, has lived in the ward for just three years and resided in a condemned house without an occupancy permit when she registered to vote there.
Finley-McCaw did not return calls from The NorthSider requesting comment for this story.
Finley-McCaw, who does not have a campaign website, has received endorsements from the St. Louis Young Democrats and NARAL, a pro-choice group advocating for women’s reproductive rights.
In the NARAL press release announcing the endorsement, Finley-McCaw is quoted saying she believes the constituents in Ward 22 deserve to have someone who will be a champion for women’s rights, and she says she is that person.
“The 22nd Ward deserve [sic] someone who will be a champion for workers’ rights, smart community development, a fighter for women’s reproductive rights and a bridge builder between the police and the community,” she said.
According to reports, Finley-McCaw works for the financial services company Primerica. Her son, Rasheen Aldridge, is an activist and the Democratic committeeman in the 5th Ward.