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Steve Lichtenfeld Reflects on Nine Years as Clayton Alderman

He is leaving the board because of term limits.

On Tuesday, Steve Lichtenfeld wrapped up his third term as Ward 1 representative on the Clayton Board of Aldermen because of term limits. He is succeeded by .

In an email interview, Lichtenfeld reflected on his role and the board's work during his tenure.

How long have you served on the Clayton Board of Aldermen? In what year were you first elected to office?  

In April 2003, I was elected to my first term; re-elected in 2006 and 2009. It has been an honor and privilege to represent Ward 3 for nine years on the Board of Aldermen, and my tenure has been educational, challenging and rewarding. Hopefully, I have made a difference.

(Also on Patch: )

What do you consider to be some of your favorite personal accomplishments while serving on the board?  

Clayton is a dynamic community—always growing and changing! Our accomplishments have been due to collaborative ideas, research, discussion, and effort rather than of any one individual.  We are fortunate to have interested citizens, a vibrant business community, educational and spiritual leaders, exceptional professional staff, and of course—committed elected officials.

Those accomplishments which I have been particularly close to are on the City, Ward 3 and neighborhood levels. My nine years as the aldermanic representative of the Clayton Plan Commission/Architectural Review Board has allowed me to use my professional training in the planning and development challenges that the City has seen.

City-wide, our no-smoking, sustainability and recent ordinances have been actions providing both City and regional leadership.  Working with staff to improve customer service through increased citizen communications (updated website, redesigned CityViews, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), measurement of citizens' perceptions, and support of our renowned parks and recreation department, responsive Public Works Department, unparalled public safety police and fire departments, among others, are accomplishments that all of the elected officials can be proud of. 

The completion of the updated , the renovated and expanded and , and the soon to be completed in the historic Heritage Building on Brentwood Boulevard enhance services to our community.

In Ward 3, where I have resided with my family since 1973, we have seen a growth in citizen awareness and participation in community affairs. Several neighborhoods have developed associations to enhance residents' communication, collaboration, and understanding of City business. 

As alderman, I have worked with the Old Town Clayton, Davis Place, Polo Drive, Clayshire, Country Club Court neighborhoods, and the vertical neighborhoods including , the , Maryland Walk, and the , among others.  These relationships have been vital in increasing our citizens' awareness and our elected officials and staff understanding of areas of concern.

On the neighborhood level, ongoing efforts to respond to residents' and neighborhood associations' requests and concerns and be the liaison with City government has been rewarding in getting to know our citizens and assist in resolving issues of services, infrastructure and building issues.

During the past nine years, as aldermanic representative on the Clayton Plan Commission/Architectural Review Board, we have accomplished a recently completed , as well as seeing the development of several striking new commercial and residential properties including , , and . 

Although the downturn in the economy has slowed development, we have maintained a healthy business and restaurant environment. In addition, we have of our City, address the storm water runoff issues, monitor impervious land coverage in our neighborhoods and upgrade our regulations to benefit the entire City.

What has it meant to you to serve on the board?

It definitely has been an honor to serve on the Board of Aldermen. Living in Clayton has afforded my family a wealth experiences, and I view my service as "giving back" to the community. There has been an ongoing learning component as well as bringing my own professional experience to the table. As I look back over the past nine years, relationships and friendships have developed that have allowed me to participate in a collaborative process that has been rewarding beyond my imagination.

Which projects, if any, do you wish you could see to completion if term limits weren't an issue?

Of course, the Downtown Master Plan is vital to maintain and grow the business vibrancy of the City; I am confident the the continuing and newly elected officials and our staff leadership will continue implementation of the Plan.

Many projects were sidelined during the economic downturn of recent years, including Carondelet Village, the Trianon, Brown Shoe, the Central/Maryland Hotel, among others; hopefully, the economy will improve and we will see further development return. 

The upcoming , on which I will be a member, will set the goals, expectations, and path for our second century; the process will engage all areas of our citizens including residents, business leaders, institution leaders and elected officials.

How would you characterize the economic climate of Clayton? The cultural climate?

Both the professional staff and the elected officials have been diligent in monitoring the budget of the City. Currently, economic pressures have strained the revenue-to-expense relationship, yet due to our healthy reserves and fiscal management leadership, Clayton has the ability to respond to challenging decisions.

The cultural climate has always been one of public amenities, governmental service, inclusion and sustainability; the desire to maintain and enhance our environment is strong and will be furthered by the upcoming Strategic Planning Process for the next century.

Do you plan to seek elected office in the future? If so, which office?

My current plans include serving on the Strategic Planning Committee to set goals and expectations for the next century, eventually to serve again on the Clayton Plan Commission/Architectural Review Board, and to remain knowledgeable of and active in City issues.

Having participated in the Clayton/Richmond Heights Joint Merger Study several years ago, I learned that we must begin to think and act regionally to improve both the business and living conditions in the region.

Currently, I have no formal plans for additional elective office.

What are your plans after serving on the board? Will you remain active in Clayton's civic life? If so, how?

Yes, I will remain active, as stated above. Since my first appointment to the Plan Commission/Architectural Review Board in the late 1980s, I have found that volunteerism and public service is rewarding and that an individual can make a difference.

On a personal level, I will continue to be both a resident and business citizen of Clayton in my architectural practice.

If there's one thing you could change about Clayton, what would it be? What's one thing you would not change under any circumstances?

Clayton is a great place to live, work, and enjoy recreation. We have changed over the several decades that I have lived in the City, and I would like to see a renaissance of retail activity to work together with our business and restaurant environments.

Maintaining our City's high level of amenities and services for all of our citizens —residents, businesses, and institutions is paramount to our future and should only be enhanced.

Name three issues in your ward that you most often hear your neighbors discussing. Talk about why those issues are so important in your area of Clayton.

Traffic in Ward 3 will always be problematic due to the high concentration of business activity in the downtown area. At times, excess traffic filters through the residential areas. The intent is to keep heavy traffic on our main roads so that we can maintain the safety and solitude of our neighborhoods.

Infrastructure, the maintainance of our aging streets, sidewalks, sewers, etc., is always a concern. The City Public Works Department has an ongoing program of maintenance and upgrade to keep our infrastucture safe and attractive.

Security is generally not a problem in Ward 3 due to the excellent and fire service in Clayton.  This topic is often addressed at neighborhood meetings and is responded to by our public safety officials with statistics and additional patrols to allay residents' concerns.

How will your ward look 10 years from now? How will Clayton as a whole look in 10 years?

Ward 3 will remain a desirable place to live, work and play. We will probably see additional development in the Downtown area, hopefully with new residential opportunities; more new house construction replacing some older residences; and a greatly enhanced which provides the entire City, not just Ward 3, with recreational opportunities.

Clayton, as a whole, will maintain its vibrancy and leadership in the region well into the future. Our citizens, elected officials and professional staff are committed to this goal.

We are fortunate to have a strong location in the region, maintain a vibrant business community, host the seat of government, have a nationally recognized , provide unequalled services to our citizens, and provide excellent housing choices of all types for our residents.

As we have seen, Clayton will thrive well into the future.

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