Alderman Michael McMillan was just re-elected in April to his second term representing the city's 19th ward; he sat recently to fill us in on his experiences thus far.
Q: You just went through an election recently, at the same time as the mayoral election. Was there anything that surprised you during the campaign? What was your message?
A: "Well, the biggest thing that surprised me was that someone ran against me, and I was only surprised because it was an independent who had spent her entire career as a Democrat. Usually if you're going to challenge someone, you'll run as a Democrat in the primary, but not so in this case. My campaign's biggest message was to explain the progress and prosperity that have started to happen during the last four years, and to talk about our successes in housing, education, church and religious organization development and economic development."
Q: Tell me a little about your ward.
A: "It is made up of three main neighborhoods: Midtown, Jeff Vanderlou and Covenant Blu/Grand Center, with a very small section of the Central West End. It's a interesting mix in that you have the heavy institutional users, like Saint Louis U, the VA hospital and so on, but also a pretty large group of senior citizens living in the residential areas and then a lot of low- to middle-income people as well."
Q: How old are you now, Mike? And how are people continuing to respond to the age thing?
A: "I am 29 years old, but now that you mention it, I'm reminded that I'll be 30 in two months and two days. And I'm still the youngest alderman down at the Board of Aldermen. I manage to hold on to that title even after five years in office! Even though I am young, I started to get involved in politics with the 1992 Clinton/Gore campaign, and Mel Carnahan on the state level, and I've just gotten more and more involved since then. Although I'm the only aldermen in his twenties, at least for two more months, there is a group of three or four aldermen who are a younger group than you might expect in their thirties, at least. It's been both good and bad: being young and new, I had not been through a lot of this stuff before. I didn't carry any baggage, I had no axe to grind or revenge to seek on any issue for any political purpose. I also think it has helped me tremendously to bring a young person's perspective to issues like why there is such a brain drain in St. Louis, and ways we can combat it. I'm interested, as many young people are, with holistically trying to bring a city together of young and old, black and white and so on. We should actively try to create a more open community for everyone, so that people would want to stay."
Q: You worked hard for Freeman Bosley during the mayoral campaign. What was your reaction to the eventual outcome of the election?
A: "I always worked well with Francis Slay at the board when he was president of the Board of Aldermen, and so far I have had a good relationship with him in the mayor's office. They have been working with me on some projects happening in my ward. I will continue to try to work with him for the betterment of the community. I know that sounds corny, but it's true."
Q: And how about the arrival of former mayor Schoemehl at Grand Center, another part of your ward?
A: "I have a meeting with him in just a little while here, as a matter of fact. He has a lot of energy and a lot of creative ideas, so I just want to stay connected with what's going on there to make sure everyone I represent is included in the process of getting some really creative things happening in that district."