Pam Fogarty, whose tenure as mayor of Dardenne Prairie has been marked by explosive population growth and controversy at times, has resigned, effective May 10.
“It’s time for other stuff in my life,” said Fogarty, in an interview on May 11. “It’s very stressful, people don’t realize how hard it is on your family.”
Fogarty sent a one-sentence letter dated May 8 to city officials announcing her resignation. Alderman David Zucker (Ward 1) who as elected president of the city’s Board of Aldermen on May 6, will serve as acting mayor until the full board meets on May 20. The board will vote on appointing someone to fill out Fogarty’s remaining term, which ends in April 2017.
Fogarty has served as mayor since 2003. During that time the city’s population may have tripled in size to more than 12,000 people.
Critics blame her for spending city money irresponsibly. They also say she is demanding of city staff and that personal issues have spilled over into the job as mayor.
Recently some Dardenne Prairie residents have clashed with city officials over development proposals that they fear may encroach on local subdivisions, particularly for a 175-acre tract by the Cora Bopp Limited Partnership and an apartment complex proposal.
Fogarty, who works full-time as a real estate agent, has previously discussed resigning or not running for office. At those times, she cited her workload and, for several years, the controversy. Dardenne Prairie became a fourth-class city in 2001 and the mayor serves part time, receiving $1,000 a month. The city’s last full-time city administrator, Frank Schoneboom, was fired last year.
“I have only missed three board meetings in 12 years as mayor,” Fogarty said. “That is a lot of Wednesdays and a lot of birthdays and other things.”
The complete turnover of the city’s six-member board may have been the last straw for Fogarty. In two years, six seats on the board have changed hands. Zucker said the changeover was a statement by the city’s voters about the city’s direction and management.
On May 6, the first meeting where all six members were seated, the board wasted little time in passing two ordinances and five resolutions they said will give the board more oversight over city government.The ordinances state that the board can hold hearings, subpoena witnesses, and conduct investigations, interviews, examinations and inspections. Employees also are protected from retaliation from supervisors for giving information to the board.
Included also is a provision allowing the board to sit as a committee of the whole with the mayor not allowed to sit, preside or participate in the committee meeting. The board also appointed members to five subcommittees to review specific city functions and report back to the board.
Zucker, 68, a former corporate attorney and official with Express Scripts, said he was surprised by Fogarty’s resignation.
“I wasn’t sure if she was going to ride it out or take a hike,” said Zucker, who was elected to the board in 2012.
Zucker said some of the issues residents have with city government have to do with the city’s vision for the future.
Some residents see Dardenne Prairie as a quiet place, a bedroom community where residents can raise families. Residents don’t have a vision of a city with “40,000 residents and lots of high-rise apartments,” Zucker said.
He said board members are aware that commercial development can provide sales tax revenue, a major source of city funds. But development interest has not been high so far since the completion of Hwy. 364 through western St. Charles County.
The board is expected to look at the city’s expenditures but not do an “autopsy” on the city. Another priority is seeking additional police protection through the St. Charles County Police Department, which the city contracts out to for police services. Zucker said board members would like to see more county patrols in the city between 1 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Meanwhile, Fogarty, 54, who supported more commercial development in the city, said the new board will have to face the issue of how to pay for city services and infrastructure that an increasing population may demand.
“Neighborhood streets are fine right now but they are going to fall apart,” she said.
Addressing the controversies that seemed to be part of her term, Fogarty said those “rumors”were false. She called the idea of board subcommittees “wonderful,” but questioned how long they would last. She also predicted that new city leaders may run into trouble because of a lack of experience. The previous board collectively had more than 100 years of experience, compared to this board, she said.
Fogarty also questioned if the city could limit or curtail property owners from developing their land and suggested that the board may face legal action with some of those issues.
Zucker acknowledged that Fogarty accomplished many things for the city.
The board, he said, may make a plaque presentation at a future board meeting.
For her part, Fogarty cites her role on Interstate 364 issues and the location of Target store and shopping center as major accomplishments.
The job was fun for many years, she said. “Then it became less fun anymore.”
Fogarty said not having to attend meetings and answer telephone calls is appealing.
“I get to go home and sit on my deck and not have anything to think about,” she said.