Jeffrey Boyd was dismissed from his job as executive director of the Union West Community Corporation three years ago amid allegations that the ward's alderman had threatened to withhold Community Development Agency funds from the neighborhood corporation unless Boyd was fired. Boyd was allegedly targeted because the alderman at the time, Kenny Jones, believed Boyd had backed his opponent in the Democratic primary [Wilson, "Tales from the 22nd Ward," July 28, 1999].
Three of the corporation's board members resigned in protest; one, Nadine Nunn, described Jones as a "little Napoleon" who was "dictating to everybody." Back in '99, Nunn said, "if I could have strangled him, I would have." But she didn't.
Now it's Boyd's turn to end Jones' nineteen-year regime, running against the man Jones picked to succeed him as 22nd Ward alderman, Jay Ozier, in a special election that will be part of Tuesday's primary.
Before he resigned in May, Jones was, hands down, the most flamboyant city alderman, and that's saying a bunch for a board known as an epicenter of eccentricity. In a city that has almost as many Democrats as it does citizens, Jones won three of four races running as an independent. During aldermanic meetings, he'd take the floor to expound on global issues and reference such Marxist concepts as dialectical materialism so often that one veteran alderman half-seriously referred to Jones as "Alderman Trotsky."
That was the good Kenny.
The other Kenny once went off on Marit Clark, then a committee chairwoman, when she told him she would have him removed if he didn't quiet down during the meeting. Jones took the microphone and said he'd "like to see the motherfucker" who would throw him out. Clark broke for a recess.
Jones also freely discussed Viagra, cryptically telling the media his use of the drug was the reason he didn't stay through the entire meeting when Alderwoman Irene Smith (D-1st) tried to prolong her anti-redistricting filibuster by taking what appeared to be a bathroom break on the aldermanic floor.
A year ago, Short Cuts suggested that to compensate Jones for being the only North Side alderman to endorse Francis Slay for mayor, Slay would "either go to the mat to save Jones or offer him alternative employment in 2002" during the redistricting street fight. Turns out Slay did both, shipping Tyus' 20th Ward to South St. Louis, saving the 22nd Ward pretty much as it was. Then, in May, Slay gave Jones a $71,058-a-year gig as executive director of the Civil Rights Enforcement Agency for the mayor's office.
Jones thought he had things wired for Ozier, a carpenter and ward committeeman, when the new redistricting map gerrymandered two former Jones opponents out of the 22nd Ward. Boyd has other ideas.
Boyd had filed to run for recorder of deeds against City Hall lifer Sharon Quigley Carpenter. When Boyd's mother called him on May 17 to tell him Jones had resigned, Boyd says, he boarded a plane to return from Army Reserve duty and "did a little happy dance." Two days later, he decided to drop his bid for recorder of deeds. He became Ozier's only opponent for alderman of the 22nd Ward.
Boyd, a former housing coordinator for the city of Ferguson with a MBA from Fontbonne University, is a 38-year-old father of three who owns rental properties in North St. Louis. His wife, Patrice, is a registered nurse. Boyd's yellow campaign signs are all over his block, which is a rose amid a thorny terrain of vacant and dilapidated buildings.
Intentionally and symbolically, Boyd put his campaign office in an abandoned storefront that years ago housed the Wig Shop on Martin Luther King Drive, just inside the city limits. The cavernous building has been cleaned up a bit, but the décor consists of just a few tables, nine folding chairs and a clock on the wall that is right twice a day -- it's stopped at 11:25.
The former master sergeant and Army recruiter is approaching his campaign with the urgency of a soldier taking a hill or a recruiter making a sales pitch to a prospect. And he's blunt.
"I would rather be in the state penitentiary for the next four years than be represented by Jay Ozier, who is a Kenny Jones clone," says Boyd.
A Boyd victory would not bode well for the mayor's weak links to the North Side. Boyd's campaign fliers list the endorsements of Smith, Tyus and state Representative Charles Quincy Troupe, a group that the St. Louis American has referred to as the "North Side Taliban."
During a recent day of campaigning, Boyd stopped by 3323 Clara Avenue to meet Smith, who was visiting her godson's convenience store. Smith is backing Boyd, and although she's crossed swords with Jones, she has a few conciliatory words about him.
"Kenny and I were friends, and, as a person, I still care about him," says Smith. "But this ward needs energy and a vision."
In Smith's view, Boyd will provide that energy. If he wins on Tuesday, he'll have to run again in March for the full four-year term. He's geared up for both jobs. And he appears to have little anxiety about blasting the mayor when he can.
Approaching a potential voter near the post office at 1409 Hamilton Avenue, Boyd tells the man that it's time to take the power back after the redistricting debacle and says, "Slay's got too much power now." Boyd hands him some campaign literature and tries to peddle one of his yellow yard signs.
"See all those red signs? That's trouble," says Boyd, referring to his opponent's signs. "See those yellow signs? That's hope, bro."
For Boyd, hopes springs eternal, as does the possibility of payback.