Francis G. Slay
Doctor of Humane Letters
Francis G. Slay was the longest-serving mayor in the history of the City of St. Louis. Sworn in as its 45th mayor on April 17, 2001, he was re-elected three times by large margins. He completed his historic term on April 18, 2017.
During his tenure, Mr. Slay led a downtown and city neighborhood revival that resulted in billions of dollars of private, public and philanthropic investment in historic renovations to commercial and residential structures, in advancement of cultural institutions, in improvements to streets, bridges and other city infrastructure, and in the creation and restoration of parks, trails and recreational facilities.
Those improvements include the restoration of the Central Library and the legendary, long-idled Peabody (nee Kiel) Opera House and construction of the baseball Cardinals new Busch Stadium, a new bridge across the Mississippi River and the nationally acclaimed CityGarden.
The region is served by a vibrant new residential and entertainment district on Washington Avenue, the historic home to the city’s storied millinery, garment and shoe manufacturing industries. Neighborhoods in all parts of St. Louis have seen reinvestment, rehabilitation and new construction.
In collaboration with the City of St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the Missouri Botanical Garden and leaders in private industry, St. Louis has become one of the fastest growing startup cities in the United States.
In a precedent-setting partnership with the National Park Service, Mr. Slay put in motion the CityArchRiver effort to design and construct $400 million in improvements to the Gateway Arch grounds.
Also under Mr. Slay’s leadership, over 30 public charter elementary, middle and high schools, enrolling approximately 11,000 students, have been created in the city.
He successfully petitioned the Missouri Department of Education to create a special administrative board with plenary authority to oversee the Saint Louis Public Schools, which resulted in the district earning full accreditation by the State Board of Education in early 2017 for the first time in 17 years.
The mayor’s program to reduce children’s exposure to dangerous lead paint has won national acclaim, as did St. Louis’ plan to end chronic homelessness.
In June 2014, Mr. Slay challenged a Missouri Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage by helping same-sex couples obtain a city marriage license and hosting their weddings in his City Hall office.
Under his leadership, St. Louis earned a perfect score of 100 under the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equity Index, “which examines the laws, policies and services of municipalities and rates them on the basis of their inclusivity of LGBT people who live and work there.”
Faced with fierce competition, Mr. Slay joined with a number of city, state and federal leaders in a successful effort to win a decision by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to build a nearly $2 billion state-of-the-art Midwest headquarters and bring 3,000 jobs to St. Louis’ near Northside, and with it, new opportunity and investment to an area that has experienced decades of private sector neglect and disinvestment.
Prior to being elected mayor, the St. Louis native and the second of 11 children to Francis R. and Anna May Slay served as an alderman for 10 years, then as president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen from 1995 to 2001.
Mr. Slay earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Quincy College, where he played on three NAIA national soccer championship teams. He was inducted in the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame in 2014.
After earning a juris doctorate from Saint Louis University School of Law, he practiced law for 20 years, specializing in commercial litigation and business law.
Since stepping down as mayor, he has joined the Spencer Fane LLP law firm, where he is concentrating on real estate, development, public policy and regulatory matters.
He and his wife of 38 years, Kim, live with two rescued dogs and have two grown children, Francis Jr. and Kate.