Brentwood Ward 1 Candidate Maureen Saunders: "I Have to Be Part of the Solution"
Brentwood's reputation is just bruised, she said.
Maureen Saunders is 50 years old, and doesn’t look it, thanks to her Irish skin.
“I wouldn’t change my heritage, I love being Irish,” she said.
She’s one of eight children, and now has four of her own. She’s been married 27 years.
“My parents did a great job of raising us, because all eight of us are very compassionate, caring citizens,” she said. “They gave me a good foundation.”
Her own children range from an eighth-grader at Brentwood Middle School to her oldest, who’s getting married in June and works in economics in Cincinnati.
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She graduated from University of Missouri, St. Louis with a degree in accounting. She also took governmental and not for profit accounting as an elective.
Saunders went into public accounting after graduation, then worked as a controller for various companies, most recently a large law firm, where she supervised a staff of 16.
She likes to help companies get their books in order, “streamlining processes, helping them implement internal controls, then automate that.”
Saunders became interested in Brentwood city politics when the Brentwood Promenade was in the works, and rumors were in the air.
“I don’t base anything on rumor,” she said. “I always immediately attend a meeting and educate myself. I got involved back then, and urged the city to update the comprehensive plan, and spent many years encouraging them to do so and finally was successful in that effort and sat on that committee.”
She said her children were small, then, so she diverted her attention to helping out at their schools, including working on getting a bond proposition passed.
Jumping forward to when Brentwood City Administrator Chris Seemayer was found to be embezzling from the city, she said her first inclination was to go to a council meeting and find out what happened.
She said she was surprised to hear that it was cash withdrawals at a casino on a city credit card.
She looked at the city’s annual independent audit, which stated the city should implement controls to prevent embezzlement and fraud, and it also said, as noted in the prior year.
“That means they had recommended it the year before,” she said. “For me, as an accountant, that was like, you’re just not doing your homework.”
She decided a state audit of the city of Brentwood was the right thing to do. It was a citizen-led effort that required signatures. She said she wasn’t going to pull teeth to get them.
“Parkridge was going to be the test street,” she said. “If very few people had signed, it probably would have ended there, but quite the opposite happened. People were grabbing it out of my hands.”
After that, she said she hoped someone in her group of volunteers would step forward for run for alderman, but no one did.
“I thought, I have to be part of the solution,” she said, and decided to run. She said when the state auditor comes back with suggestions for the city, she would like to be on the board to help implement them.
She thinks a full workout facility at the Brentwood Recreation Complex would end up being too expensive for the residents.
She hasn’t seen the results of the survey on the Recreation Center, but said her gut feeling, is with The Heights and the Mid-County YMCA, the community couldn’t support a third workout facility. She’d like to fix up the ice rink, and add a teen rec center.
“It’s a drug-free, alcohol-free place where pre-teens and teens can hang out in a semi-supervised space, but not with their parents standing over them,” she said.
She said Brentwood’s reputation is “just bruised.” She said the city has already taken steps in the right direction, and will go forward and will even serve as a roll model for other cities when problems are unearthed.
Saunders is aware that some see her as combative at recent board of alderman meetings.
“I have never called anyone a name at the podium,” she said. “I never make accusations at the podium, but I do ask the tough questions, and I don’t back down.”
She said during the meetings where the embezzlement was being discussed, citizens were taking longer at the podium and Kelly invoked the 3-minute limit, which she understood, but felt some warning would have been good.
Saunders had questions, and stayed at the podium beyond the limit.
“I was willing to be arrested if the mayor wanted me to stop at the three-minute mark,” she said. “It was a choice I made; I feel strongly about, and I stand behind it.”
She said she feels like she is always respectful. “After meetings the mayor always wants to engage with me, and have a conversation about what happened.”
“We can work together,” she said of Kelly.
“I feel like I was instrumental bringing him on board with the audit. I worked with him in getting the comprehensive plan updated, so I am effective.”