ST. LOUIS — Five days after he was indicted on corruption charges, Lewis Reed announced Tuesday he’s resigning the key city post of aldermanic president he’s held for 15 years.
“I am heartbroken and saddened to have to make the difficult decision to step down and end my time as President of the Board of Aldermen,” Reed said in a late-afternoon statement.
“It is essential to assure the citizens have access and the best service available in such a pivotal role. I cannot fulfill these duties as I take the time to focus on my family and my current legal challenges.”
Alderman Joe Vollmer, the board’s vice president, said he had spoken to Reed and would assume the role of acting board president.
Vollmer, who represents the 10th Ward encompassing the Hill neighborhood and nearby areas, said he expected a smooth transition of power.
“I will do my best to try to return some integrity back to the board during my interim presidency,” Vollmer said. “This is not an office I sought. This office sought me.”
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Vollmer will have that role until the Nov. 8 general election, when voters citywide will pick someone to serve in the post until Reed’s current four-year term expires next April. Another election will be held then for the next four-year term.
Vollmer said he won’t run for the president’s job in either election and instead would seek another term next year as a ward alderman.
He said his responsibilities at the bar-restaurant he owns and operates on The Hill — Milo’s Bocce Garden — don’t allow him enough time to carry out the aldermanic presidency duties for a full term.
Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, in a statement, said Reed “did the right thing for our city.”
“It’s no secret Lewis Reed and I have been at odds for years, but I remain disappointed it came to this,” the mayor said. “The troubling charges brought by the U.S. attorney pull back the curtain to highlight how those elected may exploit our city for their own benefit and profit.”
Reed, 59, the longest-serving aldermanic president in St. Louis history, is the third city official cited in the indictment to resign. He had been under increasing political pressure to do so.
On Monday, 11 aldermen — most of them in the board’s progressive faction who have often been at odds with Reed and his more moderate allies — had publicly called on him to quit.
Jeffrey Boyd quit as 22nd Ward alderman on Friday, the day after the charges were made public. John Collins-Muhammad abruptly resigned as 21st Ward alderman on May 12, citing “mistakes” but not elaborating.
The three, all Democrats, entered not guilty pleas to federal charges of using their offices for cash bribes and other items.
Reed as aldermanic president had been one of the most powerful officials in city government. He controlled bill assignments to aldermanic committees, decided who would serve on which committees and presided over the board’s weekly meetings.
He also was one of three members of the city’s top fiscal body, the powerful Board of Estimate and Apportionment — serving with the mayor and comptroller.
Reed got to City Hall in 1999 when he was elected to the first of two terms as 6th Ward alderman.
In 2007, he challenged and upset incumbent Aldermanic President James Shrewsbury in the Democratic primary and went on to win the general election. He was the first African American ever elected to the post.
He was reelected to three more terms, most recently in 2019. But he was rebuffed in his efforts to move up to the mayor’s job, trying unsuccessfully three times to do so — including last year.
Vollmer, 63, is vice president because he now has the most continuous seniority among ward aldermen; he was first elected in 2003.
Last week he succeeded Boyd as vice president. Boyd, also an alderman since 2003, and Vollmer drew cards every two years to decide who ranked first.
Vollmer, regarded as a Reed ally, said last week he was stunned to hear of the charges against Reed and Boyd, having served with both for two decades.
He said Reed in his telephone conversation Tuesday told him “it was time to focus on his trial and taking care of his family.”
Late last year, Vollmer, as chairman of the aldermanic Legislation Committee, worked closely with Reed on a ward redistricting plan that also carries out a voter-mandated requirement to cut the number of wards — and ward aldermen — to 14 from 28.
Vollmer will be running himself next year in a redrawn 5th Ward.
Originally posted at 4:41 p.m. Tuesday, June 7.