Best Local Politician - 2006
Readers' Choice: St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay
A short-statured dude with a high-pitched voice and no previous legislative experience, whose favored campaigning costume is a blue button-down and khakis, who entices dreamy-eyed college kids to throw their time and energy into his election bid? It coulda been Howard Dean redux for homegrown boy Jeff Smith and his run this summer to win the primary for the state senate's fourth district. But win he did, against a crowded roster at that, and Smith, at age 32, will take the seat uncontested come November. Resting one's faith upon a greenhorn politico is mitigated when said 'horn is smart, modest, charming and moonlights as an adjunct poli-sci prof. One of Smith's fundraisers was a three-on-three b-ball tourney. He garnered endorsements from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mayor Francis Slay and the Progressive Democrats of St. Louis. Want more? He was co-valedictorian of his high school class and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina. But his most effective campaigning tool was probably the award-winning documentary that showed him losing the 2004 contest for Dick Gephardt's congressional seat, Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? (He may have endured a suck-out in that race, but the film made it into D.C. theaters this month.) Smith's a man with his feet on the ground and his head in the clouds a dreamer and a doer, just like someone out of the movies.