Best Local Politician - 2004
George R. "Buzz" Westfall (1944-2003)
Readers' Choice: St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay
Until his death from a staph infection late last year, Buzz Westfall was the defining player in local politics. A graduate of Saint Louis University, Westfall cut his teeth as county prosecutor before being elected to the post of St. Louis County executive in 1990. It was a position he'd hold for the rest of his life. Westfall weathered many a political storm as he watched four St. Louis mayors come and go, and from his bid to expand MetroLink east into Illinois to his staunch support of a new Cardinals stadium, he made his mark in his home county and beyond. His aggressive response to local layoffs in the 1990s was so successful that it soon became a national model. But it was his efforts after the Great Flood of 1993 that secured Westfall his place in history: Working with state and federal agencies, he formed a Flood Recovery Task Force that's now mimicked nationwide. Love him or hate him, nearly a year after his death, it remains to be seen who, if anyone, is poised to replace Westfall at the pinnacle of local politics.