CLAYTON— St. Louis County Executive Sam Page hired a new chief of staff on Monday and served two other high-level administrative positions.
Cal Harris will be Page’s new chief of staff starting Jan. 31.
Harris, who has been the spokesperson for the city of Baltimore since February, is a St. Louis-area native who has worked in communications, lobbying and advisory roles for Democratic election campaigns.
He replaces Winston Calvert, Chief Advisor and Chief Strategy Officer. Calvert is leaving the county at the end of this month to become managing director of The Equity Network.
Andria Nelson Roberts, the county’s director of transformation, left the county last week to join Calvert in the same foundation, Page spokesman Doug Moore said Monday.
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The county has hired Stephanie Lewis, vice president of public relations firm FPM Communications, to replace Roberts in the role of chief transformation officer. Lewis begins the new role on January 31.
And in a third new hire, Karen Aroesty will become director of the county administration department, filling a seat left vacant since former director Tod Martin retired in June.
Aroesty chairs the county’s Human Relations Commission, an advisory committee, and is co-chair of the U.S. Attorney’s Hate Crimes Task Force. Aroesty is a former longtime regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
In another change to the day-to-day operations of the executive branch, Harris will serve as Page’s only direct report.
Calvert and two other top advisers — executive director Deanna Venker and chief policy adviser Cora Faith Walker — all reported directly to Page since September 2020.
Venker, Walker and Moore will report to Harris, Moore said.
Moore said the change was intended to make the executive’s organization and communications “clearer.”
Harris was hired from a handful of finalist candidates that included some current members of Page’s administration, Moore said.
Harris was previously a spokesperson for the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, regional communications director for Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign, and senior adviser to the unsuccessful 2020 Missouri gubernatorial campaign Nicole Galloway.
“Returning home to serve in Page administration and impact policy for a community I love is truly humbling,” Harris said in a written statement. “I believe in Dr. Page’s principled approach to governance and vision for St. Louis County, and I look forward to getting to work,” Harris said.
In an interview, Harris added that he grew up in North St. Louis and Ferguson, and graduated from Christian Brothers College High School.
Harris said he was seeking the County role in part to follow his romantic partner C. Renee Vaughn, who moved to the St. Louis area in 2019 to become the company’s vice president of personnel, innovation and commercialization at Centene Corp, based in Clayton.
Centene was among the biggest corporate donors to Page’s 2020 election campaign to complete a two-year term vacated by Steve Stenger.
Harris said Vaughn was “a health nerd” with no connection to politics.
Moore denied that the Centene connection could pose a conflict of interest.
“Dr. Page didn’t hire his wife, he hired Cal,” Moore said.
Harris was also a co-founder of a lobbying firm, Pine Street Strategies, with former Democratic state Rep. Don Calloway of St. Louis. The Washington, DC-based company has lobbied for clients including Anheuser-Busch InBev and the National Bankers Association.
Harris said he cut all ties with the company in 2019 before going to work for the City of Baltimore.
Harris received a Bachelor of Arts from Morehouse College and a Masters in Public Policy from the Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. His starting salary as Page’s chief of staff will be $156,000.
Lewis, the county’s new chief administrative officer, is a board member of the nonprofit St. Louis Area Resources for Community and Human Services and a member of the Annie Malone Historical Society.
She was previously vice president of human resources for People’s Health Centers, consultant at Gateway Management Group, and director of human resources and diversity for Office Depot. His starting salary for the county will be $135,012.
Aroesty, director of the administration department, will receive a salary of $129,064.
In a statement, Page said he was “delighted to welcome” the three new recruits.
“Each of them has a unique skill set and tremendous abilities that will add to the strong team we have built to lead county government through 2022 and beyond,” Page said.
Calvert and Nelson are the latest senior county officials to leave Page’s administration in the past seven months.
Mike Chapman, a former chief operating officer, left administration in July to become deputy director of the St. Louis County Housing Authority. Venker assumed Chapman’s former responsibilities seeing most county departments, Moore said Monday.
Chapman followed another senior page, former deputy director of social services Shannon Koenig, to the authority. Koenig left Page’s administration in January 2021 to replace longtime authority director Susan Rollins, who retired.
Gerard Hollins, a former chief revenue officer, left in October to work for Green Street, a Clayton-based property company. Hollins assistant Erica Savage has since served as the department’s acting director.
Andrea Jackson-Jennings, who had been director of the Department of Social Services since 2011, left the county in September to lead the Regional Response Team, a coalition of nonprofit organizations. She was replaced by Howard Hayes, former director of the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment.
Yusef Scoggin, the department’s former director of family and community services, left in October to become director of social services for the city of St. Louis.
Each case was an official deciding for themselves whether to pursue other opportunities, Moore said.
“Dr. Page certainly didn’t ask any of those people to leave and he was very happy about that,” Moore said. “But they saw other opportunities that they wanted to pursue, and he fully supported that. “