Funky Town

Smokestacks, strip joints and a seriously solid tax base: Welcome to Sauget, Illinois

The organization may be new and progressive-sounding, but the central focus is vintage Sauget.

"We see the biggest health issue in this area as employment," asserts Bob Klutts, CEO of ArchView and executive director of Touchette Regional Hospital, on whose board Sauget Sr. sits. "We'll never change the makeup of this area until we get people employed. No matter how hard we work on the health status, it's employment that makes the biggest difference. If we can get Johnny's dad a job, a whole lot of positive things can happen. If Johnny's dad doesn't have a job, he probably doesn't have healthcare."

But despite ArchView's avowed scope and Rich Sr.'s résumé of regionalism, Centreville Mayor Frankie Seaberry sees the nonprofit as a mere lead blocker for the village of Sauget's eastward expansion.

Sauget mayor Rich Sauget Jr., with his village's lifeblood pumping away in the background
Jennifer Silverberg
Sauget mayor Rich Sauget Jr., with his village's lifeblood pumping away in the background

"Rich's dad is taking us to court; they're suing us for control of a road that's been in Centreville ever since it was formed," Seaberry notes. She's referring to Mousette Lane, a key access road for Sauget's business park and stadium off Interstate 255. "They [ArchView] don't include us on anything. They are Sauget, as far as I'm concerned."

Sauget Jr. maintains that Centreville's annexation of the road several years ago may have been illegal, and that the village can justify its right to Mousette Lane by virtue of the road's impact on the baseball stadium.

Of course, if the business park development goes swimmingly, Sauget will remain, first and foremost, an industrial suburb grounded in turn-of-the-twentieth-century decentralization. And it will do nothing to alter the view of SIUE's Andrew Theising: that industrial suburbs like Sauget exhibit a general disregard for human beings.

"Industrial suburb government is not founded on the social contract," Theising writes in his book, invoking seventeenth-century philosopher John Locke. "Specifically, this means that industrial suburb governments are established for the single purpose of protecting business interests, not for the general welfare of residents."

Face-to-face at Kopperman's, however, Theising is a realist when it comes to Sauget's place in the regional fabric -- to a point where he recognizes the village and the metro east as a necessity, if not a particularly palatable one.

"Those are all Missouri plates," he explains, referring to the massive parking lot that plays host to the vehicles of Sauget's nightclub patrons. "Those are the same people who say, 'We can't have that in St. Louis County.' Every major city has to have a place where you put your smokestacks, your strip clubs and your drug dealers. St. Louis County has a very strong moral obligation. I'm not sure St. Clair County has one -- and it was all designed that way."

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