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Ward 3 Alderman Race: Alex Berger III on Economic Development, Neighborhood Safety

In April, Alex Berger III will seek a term representing Ward 3 on the Clayton Board of Aldermen.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article and its accompanying headline incorrectly identified the full name of Alex Berger III. This article has been update to reflect his full name.

In anticipation of April 3 municipal elections in St. Louis County, Clayton-Richmond Heights Patch invited local candidates to answer several questions about their background, their respective city and their goals if elected to office. 

Links to Saturday's profiles and those published in the weeks to come will be added to the Election 2012 Headquarters page. Questions for the candidates may be posted by commenting on this article. When doing so, readers are urged to follow Patch's terms of use.

Additional questions about elections coverage may be directed to the editor by emailing nate.birt@patch.com.

The following is a profile of Alex Berger III*, who is seeking a fourth term representing Ward 3 on the Clayton Board of Aldermen after year away from the board. He is unopposed in the race. 

A profile of aldermanic candidate Michelle Harris published earlier Saturday. Look for a profile of incumbent Richmond Heights Councilwoman Camille Greenwald on Sunday.

Name: Alex Berger III
Age: 62
Years lived in Clayton: 52 years
Family: Cindy, my spouse, and I have been married for 37 years this year. My oldest daughter, Allison Dietz (CHS 1997); her husband, Michael; and son, David (CHS 2028), live in Clayton. My youngest daughter, Amy Berger (CHS 2000), lives in Chicago. 
Education:
B.A. History, Drake University 1972; Masters in Public Administration, Drake University 1974
Professional Background: Human Resources and Customer Service executive. Business consultant. Professional experience from employment with East-West Gateway Council of Governments, Emerson Electric, Angelica Corporation, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and BJC HealthCare.
Elected office held previously: First elected to a three year term in 2002 as an alderman in Ward III of the City of Clayton. Subsequently served two additional three year terms as an alderman.

What do you like about your city?

Clayton offers an outstanding environment to have a home, raise a family and enjoy the benefits of a City government that is committed to the delivery of a wide array of services at a very high level of excellence. Our school district has been a significant contributor in delivering a fabulous educational experience for our kids. Lastly, we have benefited greatly from creating a business center that features a diversity of employers and businesses. This is a beautiful city. I love this City!

If you could change one thing about your city, what would it be? Why?

One of my priorities is to enhance our sense of community. Our community is comprised of the citizens and organizations/institutions. I believe there is a need to create a more collaborative relationship in our community, so that we can create new opportunities that will benefit all of us.

Meeting the new challenges of the future will require greater coordination and cooperation between the City, the School District, the business, educational and religious institutions. An emphasis on our total community will aid our efforts to continue to deliver the best living and working environment in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Identify three challenges your city is facing at this time

  • A) Community: see above  
  • B) Economic Development: develop a comprehensive strategy for economic development to ensure the future vitality of our city.
  • C) Fiscal management: initiate an across-the-board process improvement strategy embracing lean management principles to gain efficiency and cost reduction in service delivery

Describe a difficult decision that you have had to make. How does this situation illustrate the approach you would take to problem-solving as an elected leader?

Shortly after taking on the role as Vice President for Customer Service for Angelica Image Apparel, an enterprise software system was implemented. This integrated system replaced several other systems and would support all inventory, manufacturing and customer service operations. Within 30 days of that implementation, the implementation was a disaster. Our customer backorders increased dramatically and interdependent departments were unable to communicate and coordinate functions.

I was the point person to assess what had happened and initiate actions to reverse what was being experienced and achieve the planned efficiencies and performance goals. This became a challenge of technology, people and processes. Creating a strategy for intervention and attendant action plans required a coordinated team effort crossing numerous organizational silos.

Planning and initiating specific actions were enabled by learning to proactively listen and engage a diverse team of staff throughout the U.S., accessing and  coordinating diverse resources, measuring outcomes and adjusting to new challenges with efficiency, were all learned experiences for me. Within six months we achieved the original planned performance goals, and our team went on to create service outcomes that became the standard for our industry.

My approach to developing strategies and action plans, learning process management and how to engage and listen to a wide array of people are specific takeaways from this experience that are applicable in my role as an alderman.

How would you characterize Clayton’s economic climate?

Our economic climate is stable, but not growing. We have been very fortunate that up until the national economic crisis, our city’s economic model had generated the necessary resources to fulfill the service expectations of our citizens and stakeholders.

In the last couple of years, our city has experienced a downturn in revenues and an increase in the expenses of running the city’s operations. A change is needed to create a better fiscal management plan. Deficit budgets exceeding $2 million in consecutive years has a caused a depletion of our reserves. Continuation on this path can only lead to an array of negative outcomes including tax increases.

Our city needs to develop a comprehensive economic and a fiscal management strategy and plan. The future demands changes in our approach to fiscal and operations management. 

What is your philosophy with regard to economic development and financial responsibility in the city?

Economic development is a key priority for me as an alderman. I advocate for proactive support of our business community. The economic model of the city is dependent on revenue generated from both residential and the commercial property taxes, sales taxes and utility taxes. Increasing taxes is not the answer to economic development.  

We must engage our citizens, business representatives and owners to develop a more dynamic approach to supporting and promoting our business community. For example, an important feature in a revised approach would be to invest in an expanded mobile media strategy to promote and highlight Clayton businesses and their service offerings. We would need to adopt an intergenerational marketing strategy, with an overall goal of developing new, different and better tactics.

I also believe that to attract new businesses to our community that same mantra—new, different and better—would have to be applied to assessing and revising our present value proposition that we utilize in marketing the benefits of locating a business to Clayton.

Included in my philosophy of economic development for our city is maintaining and increasing the value of our homes and residences. Making sure the city has the wherewithal to maintain and repair the infrastructure, streets, lights and sewers is a top priority.

Prioritizing expenditures to support economic development is an outcome of a planned approach. Engaging and leveraging the expertise of our citizens and stakeholders will create new ideas and support the enhancements, changes and improvements to the processes now in place.  

Identify three issues that are of the greatest concern to the Clayton residents you represent. How would you address each of these concerns?

1. Neighborhood safety

Neighborhood safety has been a cornerstone achievement of our city. Our police and firefighters have been so effective in delivering service to our neighborhoods. We are very fortunate to have the leadership and staff in our public safety departments. This continues to be an ongoing priority.

Additionally, traffic control, infrastructure maintenance and changes in the landscape of adjacent commercial and institutional buildings are concerns. As an alderman, my role is to be proactive in gaining perspectives and information from residents about their needs and then collaboratively developing solutions in concert with city staff.

2. Service Delivery

Service delivery is rated so highly by our citizens. The data from neighborhood meetings and surveys have been outstanding. The challenge in the future is maintaining a high level of multiple services and having the financial means to meet the expectations of our residents. As an alderman, my role is to listen and learn from residents and neighborhood organizations as to what their priorities are and to work to have those priorities funded in the operating budget. In addition, as an alderman I work to bring together all of the Ward 3 neighborhood organizations to work on developing solutions to shared issues and priorities.

3. Responsiveness of government and transparency of processes

In the future, there will be many opportunities to assess issues and make decisions regarding City policy, procedure and operation. Citizen engagement and involvement is a key component of that process. Finding the best means to actively engage our citizens on an ongoing basis is a top priority for me. Our city is responsive to our citizens. In the future, finding new means to communicate and engage will be necessary. Those same channels of communication will support our commitment to the transparency of processes, whether that is fact-finding or decision. As an alderman, I am committed to personal visibility and adoption of technology to aid in my ability to listen, learn, engage and respond to the citizens of Ward 3.  

Clayton will celebrate its 100th year in 2013. What does this anniversary mean to you?

It’s an exciting milestone. The 100th anniversary represents an opportunity to enhance our sense of community. This milestone also can be used as an opportunity for everyone connected to our city and community to work collaboratively to create new opportunities that will benefit our city and community beyond 2013.      

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Service to my city and community is an honor for me. I care a great deal about this city and our community. I am committed to Clayton and very proud of our city and this community. The future will be challenging, but I am prepared to commit the energy to enable Clayton to adapt and continue to be a very special place. It’s a privilege to be elected as an alderman in the City of Clayton.  

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