Former St. Peters Mayor Tom Brown, who presided over the city during 20 years of unprecedented growth, was lauded last week as the man who played a major role in nurturing that growth.
“Architect … you know, that’s a perfect description,” said Mayor Len Pagano, who spoke about Brown during the city’s Board of Aldermen meeting on Oct. 23. “He had that vision.”
Brown, 79, died Oct. 16 in Henderson, Nevada, near Las Vegas after a long battle with cancer. He served as mayor of St. Peters from 1984 to 2004 – a period when the city’s population increased many times over.
During his tenure, the city also built its modern Rec-Plex recreation center – home to the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials in 2004, a new senior center and a new city hall.
Pagano served as an alderman during Brown’s tenure, elected to a two-year term in 1983. He said he had recently a flashback to one of Brown’s first speeches in 1984.
“Tom started off his speech about buffaloes,” Pagano said. “I really thought this guy lost his mind.”
The idea was that if you hear buffaloes coming, you better get prepared for something,” Pagano said. “He was saying, it’s not so much the buffaloes, but it’s the dust coming over the hill, and that dust represents people,” Pagano said. “And he really saw there was going to be more people here in the next decade and we must be ready for it.”
Brown said the city needed roads and highways, jobs, schools and an expanded poice department, Pagano said.
“He said what we’ve got today is not going to meet our needs for the future. Now bear in mind, back then when you talked about change, that was really way out of the box,” Pagano said.
He noted that Brown also talked about the need for more water.
“Here I am, a brand new alderman, everything was two-year terms, and we had a population somewhere about 8,500. All I knew was that we had wells. I’m thinking, ‘why in the world did he talk about water?’”“I said Tom, you’ve got some good ideas but I don’t know if we’re really ready for what you’re talking about.”
Ready or not, the city did grow. St. Peter’s population was estimated at 54,842 in 2013 by the U.S. Census Bureau. The city is now the third largest municipality in St. Charles County, behind O’Fallon and St. Charles.
Pagano said Brown envisioned the city as a model for the region and state. He played a prominent role in promoting highway improvements and other development issues. He formed the city’s Industrial Development Board, which attracted new business to serve a growing population. During his tenure, Mid-Rivers Drive was extended to Hwy. 94 and Mid-Rivers Mall, the largest shopping center opened in the county.
Along with Pagano’s comments, the city ran a video compilation Oct. 23 of highlights from Brown’s years in office.
Brown is survived by his wife, Rosemary “Minnie” Brown; his children, Tim (Michelle) Brown, Mark (Maureen) Brown, Linda (John) Brown-Didion, Peggy (Steve) Geldien and David (Patricia) Brown; grandchildren and great-grandchildren.