St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann has appointed John Watson, a long-serving aide to Democratic former Gov. Jay Nixon, as the new county counselor.
Watson’s appointment was approved by the County Council at its Dec. 3 meeting. He starts his position on Jan. 1 and replaces Keith Hazelwood who is retiring.
“John Watson’s extensive experience with the Missouri attorney general’s office, combined with his legal experience in the private sector, makes him an excellent choice for this position,” Ehlmann said. “I am pleased that he has accepted this role as he will be an asset to the department and the county as a whole.”
Watson, 58, served as chief of staff for Nixon from January 2009 into 2015. He has practiced law for 25 years. He also was tapped by Nixon to serve briefly as state auditor in 2015 after the death that year of state auditor Tom Schweich.
Watson also worked with Nixon when the former governor served as attorney general. He represented the interests of state government in the attorney general’s office for 15 years, including before administrative, state circuit and appellate tribunals. While in the attorney general’s office, he also worked with legislative matters, provided day-to-day legal advice and served as legislative director and chief of staff.
Watson served as executive director of the Missouri State Employees Retirement System until last January. He currently is in private practice. He will be relocating with his wife to St. Charles County.
Nixon and Ehlmann, a Republican, are longtime friends who served together in the state legislature in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Hazelwood, who was tapped as county counselor in 2016, is a well-known attorney who represented developers and local municipalities particularly in zoning and real estate matters. His law firm, including his law partner, Randy Weber, was one of the most prominent legal firms in the county.
Weber has been and continues to work as a counsel for the city of St. Peters.
Hazelwood also has been active in civic affairs serving as chairman of the commission that developed the county’s home rule charter adopted by voters in 1992, which established for the form of local government in the county.
He said, after the Dec. 3 council meeting, that he may not be doing much of anything after he retires; however, he didn’t rule out remaining active at some level later on.
“At this point, it means for six to 12 months I will quote lay fallow,” Hazelwood said.