On April 7, 2013, 100 years will have passed since St. Louis County Court granted Clayton a city charter. In those 100 years, the city has grown and flourished as the county seat where homes are in demand and businesses find success. As Clayton nears its centennial year, LN spoke with Mayor Linda Goldstein about the upcoming celebrations, the city’s reputation and plan for the next century.
How is Clayton getting ready to celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2013?
In January of this year, we held a special planning session open to the whole community, with our centennial planning committee headed up by Judy Goodman and Elizabeth Robb. With the economy and budget restraints, we decide to put a centennial twist on our existing activities and created a few new events, as well. On April 7, the actual anniversary of the city charter, we will dedicate our Shaw Park trails; then on Nov. 29, we’re having the ‘Party of the Century’ at The Ritz, which will be a great way to celebrate at the end of the centennial year. Sometime probably in October, we also will have the ‘Picnic of the Century’ in Shaw Park, free to everyone. The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council also is sponsoring an essay contest in the grade schools and high schools, and some of the winners will be included in a time capsule we’re working on. It’s really going to be a multi-generational celebration.
How has the city been able to establish itself as such a desirable community during the past 100 years?
We’ve been very fortunate to have had long, steady and prosperous growth. Clayton has a unique balance between its business community and residential living, and that balance has been really important to making us a desirable community. In addition, in the business of government, we understand that people are concerned about the three ‘S’s’: city services, public safety and schools. In Clayton, we have excellent city services, our safety record is terrific and our schools are on the leading edge—that certainly has contributed to what we have today.
What are some of Clayton’s accomplishments or recognitions that you are most proud of?
We really pride ourselves on the quality-of-life focus that we have. For example, I think Clayton can take credit for starting the smoking ban in the St. Louis region. We were willing to be an island and protect the health of the people who live, work and visit here, and that started a domino effect in St. Louis city and county. I’m also very proud that during my time in office, the city received an AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor’s Rating Service.
We have had some great environmental initiatives, as well. We were the first community in Missouri to become an EPA Green Power Community for reducing our environmental impact, and our new police station has the largest solar panel installation in the state.
What are the challenges that the city faces for continued growth and success?
An economic downturn hits government later than businesses. While some aspects of society are improving, government is being hit now, so the budget is a big issue. If you think about it, in government you still have the same number of streets to clean or plow, and the same number of people to protect with police and fire services. Even though revenue goes down, it’s not because demand for services is going down. We have been very fortunate that we had a very significant reserve, which has enabled us to carefully cut services and still supplement our budget. Going forward, we have a three-year plan to balance the budget, and when we do so, we will still have a 50-percent reserve.
What are the plans for Clayton’s future?
I will be out of office in April, so as I get ready to leave, I thought it was very important to have a strategic plan in place as we enter the next century. We had significant public engagement over the last nine months to create a plan, and that was important—I’m not saying everyone always is happy with every decision, but it’s about educating people and making them proud of their community so everyone is moving together in the same direction.
Is there anything an outsider would be surprised to learn about Clayton?
I think people would be surprised to know that the total area in Clayton is just 2.5 square miles. We’re the second downtown, we have 88 restaurants, and we’re only 2.5 miles big! We pack a lot into a small space.
What does it mean for you to be the mayor of the city as it turns 100?
It’s an amazing honor, and is extra special because I’m the first woman mayor of Clayton. As we go into the next century, I feel like we can celebrate our past and all of these wonderful accomplishments, while planning for the future.