Name: Poelker, John H.
Category: Politics and Government (Number 40)
Term as Mayor: 1973-1977
Born/Started: Apr. 17, 1913
Died/Ended: Feb. 09, 1990
Description: John Poelker was the 40th mayor of St. Louis, serving one term from 1973 to 1977. Upon becoming mayor, Poelker oversaw the creation of a new Community Development Agency, which replaced the former city planning, business development and beautification boards. With the approval of the board of aldermen, the Community Development Agency controls the revenue money received from the Federal Government. More neighborhood redevelopment work was started under the guidance of the Agency. The new Convention Center on the near North Side was put under construction after changes in financing were made as a result of bond issue elections. A new Port Development Commission was established.
On leaving office Mr. Poelker was praised by a Kansas City Councilman for improving relations between the two cities. The Mayor did not run for reelection in 1977 and was proud of the fact he left the City with a $6.5 million surplus, in preparation for the new budget. But he was not successful in removing the $25,000 salary limit for City personnel.
Mayor Poelker was born in St. Louis and attended Saint Louis University’s School of Commerce and Finance. Until 1942 he worked for the DuPont Company, becoming assistant district sales manager. He then joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a special agent working on financial frauds. In 1940 he married Miss Ruth Combron and they have a son and two daughters.
In 1953 Mayor Raymond R. Tucker named Poelker city assessor. He served there until 1957 when Tucker appointed him city comptroller to fill out the term of Milton Carpenter, who then became Missouri director of revenue. Re-elected to the office of comptroller, he served until 1973 when he won election as mayor.
In the March, 1973 primary election, he won over James F. Conway and Mayor Cervantes, who was seeking a third term. A segment of the City´s Democratic power structure looked for an alternative to Mayor Cervantes; many thought that Republican Joseph L. Badaracco, former president of the board of aldermen, could beat Mayor Cervantes in the April general election. Mr. Poelker did win over Mr. Badaracco by more than 18,000 votes on April 3, 1973.
After leaving office, Mayor Poelker deposited his personal papers with the library at Washington University. He became financial officer for a large construction company. In 1980 he was an executive with the St. Louis Regional Commerce and Growth Association.
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