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Ferguson picks Ella Jones as first African American and first woman mayor


Councilwoman Ella Jones was elected mayor of Ferguson on Tuesday, becoming the first African American to lead the St. Louis suburb that became nationally known after a police officer killed a Black teen.

Jones, who also will be the first woman to serve as the city’s mayor, secured her historic victory with 54% of the vote over Councilwoman Heather Robinett, who had 46%.

“It’s just our time,” Jones, 65, said in an interview Tuesday night. “It’s just my time to do right by the people.”

Ella Jones
Ella Jones receives news that she has been elected the next mayor of Ferguson at her watch party. (Chris Kohley)

Asked what her election means for Ferguson’s Black residents, she responded: “One word: inclusion.”

Meanwhile, Wildwood Mayor Jim Bowlin and Richmond Heights Mayor Jim Thomson easily turned back challengers and secured new terms.

In another mayoral race, longtime incumbent Ted Hoskins of Berkeley was defeated by challenger Babatunde Deinbo, a former mayor, 42% to 34%. A third candidate, Barbara Jean Holmes, trailed.

The St. Louis County Election Board said all those results were based on 100% of the polling places reporting countywide.

This was the second time Jones ran for mayor in Ferguson. In 2017, she lost to incumbent James Knowles III, who was barred by term limits from seeking a fourth term Tuesday.

Both Jones and Robinett, 49, said if elected they would help Ferguson to continue implementing changes in city practices since the 2014 unrest, including a consent decree worked out with the federal government.

They also said they supported the goals of peaceful protesters upset with the death May 25 of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, a Black man, while in police custody. But they said they deplored the violence that followed.

Jones said Tuesday night that one of her initial goals as mayor would be “to help stabilize the businesses in Ferguson,” especially those damaged in the recent violence.

She also said she would work to bring the city council together on that and other issues.

Ella Jones2
Ella Jones (Chris Kohley)

Jones’ election continues a significant increase in African American political influence in the city in recent years. In 2014, there was just one Black council member. Now there are four out of six, although Jones will be moving soon, of course, into the mayor’s seat.

The mayoral race in nearby Berkeley was unusual because it featured an incumbent, Hoskins, seeking reelection despite pending felony charges filed against him last year.

The charges allege that Hoskins, in the months leading up to the April 2018 election for four city council seats, submitted fraudulent voter applications and other documents from at least three residents.

Hoskins, 81, a former state representative, insisted he had done nothing wrong and said he was running on his record. He also promised to work to follow through on city plans to build a community center.

Deinbo, 69, had said he’d work to hire more police. The third candidate, Holmes, 80, a retired Berkeley finance official, said she’d try to set up an activity center for kids.

Also losing reelection bids were the mayors of Breckenridge Hills and Velda Village Hills, Mary Aman and Earlene Luster.

Aman was defeated by former Mayor Jack Shrewsbury in a close three-way race, while Luster lost to Patricia Ross in a four-way contest.

Winning reelection in contested races were the mayors of Bel-Ridge, Sunset Hills, Valley Park and Bellerive Acres.

In Pagedale, voters chose the Rev. Ernest “EG” Shields, a prominent pastor, to succeed longtime Mayor Mary Louise Carter, who didn’t seek reelection.

Voters in Cool Valley picked Jayson Stewart over two opponents to succeed Mayor Viola Murphy, who didn’t run again.

In Wildwood, Bowlin, 55, defeated his opponent, Councilman Niles Stephens, 41. In Richmond Heights, Thomson, 73, defeated former Councilman Paul Lore, 65.

Among cities approving sales tax increases were Byrnes Mill, Breckenridge Hills, Dellwood, Maplewood and Herculaneum.

Property tax increases were approved in Glendale, Olivette and the Monarch, Riverview and Spanish Lake fire protection districts, some in connection with bond issues. Voters in the Hillsboro, Pacific and Dunklin fire districts and Big River Ambulance District turned down property tax hikes.

Tuesday’s local-level election, which had been scheduled for April 7 across Missouri, was delayed two months by an executive order issued by Gov. Mike Parson to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

While the election was delayed because of concerns over the coronavirus, concern over COVID-19 was still very much part of the background for Tuesday’s election.

Absentee voting soared and many election judges refused to work at the polls. That was especially true in St. Louis County, where 360 polling places were consolidated into 160.

This article originally appeared on St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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