Paul Seemayer: Local Boy Grows Up With Eye on Mayor's Office
If elected mayor, Seemayer says addressing the Chrysler plant property is his top priority.
Seemayer has been a paramedic in the Fenton Fire Protection District for 24 years, receiving a Medal of Valor for bravery in 2007 for diving into the Meramec River to rescue two people, with the help of the late Fenton Firefighter Stephen Grimes, after their car rolled into the water.
Now, Seemayer wants to be the mayor of the city to which he is devoted. He will face off on the Apr. 2 election day against former alderman Michael D. Polizzi, who also has filed for the mayor's post.
As the alderman for the city's First Ward, Seemayer has had a seat on the city's board for four years. And, with current Mayor Dennis Hancock deciding not to seek re-election on Apr. 2, Seemayer says he is ready to reach for the next level of leadership in Fenton.
"I was kind of drawn to this," Seemayer said. "I want to do this because it's a calling. Being involved is what I'm all about."
As to what he hopes to accomplish as the city's top elected official, Seemayer says, "I have a list."
At the top of the list is "finding a suitable tenant for the Chrysler property. We need something there that will have a symbiotic relationship with the city. I would like to see an industry go in there, somebody that builds something."
Seemayer said potential developments, such as a shopping center, for example, likely would produce low-paying jobs. He sees the mayor of Fenton's role in the development of the abandoned Chrysler site as being part of a team "to make sure we get the best possible tenant for the property."
Another of Seemayer's big issues is to bring improvements to some of Fenton's roads and streets, particularly Old Gravois Road and the river road (Larkin Williams Road).
There also is one new initiative Seemayer outlined as a priority if he is elected as Fenton's mayor - a heroin awareness program.
"It's a huge problem here," he said. "The goal is to educate friends and families of potential heroin addicts so they can spot the warning signs of heroin addiction."
As a paramedic, Seemayer said he has seen plenty of instances "where people would die" if it wasn't for the fire department helping those who may have overdosed or who are in a crisis due to heroin use.
"All the support now is after one is addicted," he said.
Seemayer said the task force-style heroin awareness program would work to make prevention of heroin addiction a key goal.
The group dynamic also is something Seemayer touts as a facet of his own leadership.
"You always hear about a mayor and his leadership, but I just don't like that term," he said.
It's one of the reasons Seemayer dubs his election campaign efforts as "Team Seemayer."
In addition to friends and supporters, Team Seemayer includes his wife, Pam, and their two sons, a daughter and three foster children. The Seemayers also have been foster parents for 17 children over the years.
On issues in Fenton, Seemayer said he intends to continue the city's call for changes to the current way sales taxes are distributed in St. Louis County, a method that causes Fenton to lose 60 percent of the sales taxes collected by Fenton businesses through an arrangement where millions of dollars are shared with St. Louis County municipalities and St. Louis County government itself.
It's a complicated formula, but Fenton's relatively low population (about 4,000 people) means it receives fewer taxes that are collected in the city than it should, Seemayer said.
"(The existing method) hurts us," he said.
Hancock long has been a proponent of changing the way sales taxes are distributed in the county, to the extent of battling with other municipal mayors in the county who are on the receiving end of Fenton's sales tax largesse. Fenton also has hired lobbyists to push for new laws in Missouri that would change the existing system. None of the bills have made it through the Missouri General Assembly.
Seemayer said he will continue the fight.
"I plan to be in Jefferson City quite often," he said.
Some have questioned Seemayer's ability to be a Fenton firefighter/paramedic and the city's mayor at the same time. However, the two entities are completely separate. The City of Fenton does not make decisions about the fire district, which is governed by its own board.
Seemayer also said he works 24-hour shifts and, since he isn't called on emergency runs, "When I'm off, I'm off."
Working in the fire service is where Seemayer said was able to develop decision-making skills and gain a perspective on working with large groups, he said. He was a union shop steward and district vice president of the International Association of Firefighters. Other experience includes teaching positions with St. Louis Community College at Meramec in its paramedic program and with the St. Louis County Fire Academy as both an instructor and later as a member of the board of directors. He has been vice president of the Meramec Valley Citizens Corps Coalition, an organization dedicated to the safety and instruction of community members in disaster mitigation.
Seemayer's aldermanic term expires in April. If he is unsuccessful in his bid for the mayoral seat, he'll be off the Board of Aldermen as well. But he vows to stay involved in the city he has called home his entire life.
"I won't be going away," he said.
Also, check back with Patch in the weeks leading up to the Apr. 2 election for a profile of candidate Polizzi and all the rest of the city, school board and other election contests in Fenton and High Ridge.