O'Fallon Progress

This Navy veteran is the first African-American woman to serve on O’Fallon City Council

New Ward 5 Alderman Gwen Randolph takes her seat.
New Ward 5 Alderman Gwen Randolph takes her seat. For the Progress

Gwen Randolph made history Monday night, becoming the first African-American woman to serve on the O’Fallon City Council.

Randolph was sworn in as a Ward 5 alderwoman, appointed by Mayor Herb Roach and unanimously approved by the council at the Aug. 6 meeting.

She replaced Courtney Marsh, who resigned in April because of moving. She will serve out the unexpired term until the April 2019 election.

“She’ll bring a lot of pluses to the council,” Roach said.

Randolph has lived in O’Fallon for five years. She was born and raised in St. Clair County.

“I absolutely love my city,” she said. “I wanted to become active, to support and give back to the citizens.”

“We have an excellent community. I want to act in the best interest of the residents,” she said.

Randolph plans to talk with Marsh about what her concerns were for Ward 5, and meet the residents.

“I want to start talking to people. I want to see what work needs to be done. I want to work hard because I care about this community,” she said.

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, she was an air traffic controller and supervisor from 1985 to 1993 in Millington, Tenn., and in Sicily.

A longtime educator, Randolph earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, with an endorsement in secondary education, at Lemoyne Owen College in Memphis, Tenn., in 1999, and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Maryville University in St. Louis in 2006.

She is working on a doctorate in science education (teaching and learning)/curriculum at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and hopes to achieve that in 2019.

Currently, she works as a Science Content Specialist for prekindergarten through grade 12 in the East St. Louis School District 189. She is also part of the Emerging Leaders Program.

She is a past principal of Monroe Elementary School and interim principal at Mason Elementary and Columbia schools. She has provided coaching and individualized instructional support in the St. Louis Public Schools, where she also worked as a Science Curriculum Supervisor for six years.

She worked at Hazelwood East High School for seven years, teaching science and as Dean of Students.

She served on the Ferguson-Florissant School Board from 2001 to 2006. Her achievements include an Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award in 2003.

Divorced, she has one son, Michael Thomas II, who lives in San Francisco.

Roach said five citizens from Ward 5 applied for the open seat, and he interviewed all of them, as did City Administrator Walter Denton.

“I was very, very pleased that we had five people that wanted to serve our city and the citizens of Ward 5,” Roach said. “All of them brought different skills and background to the position and came from different parts of the ward. All of them were very positive on the city and the direction it was going.”

Roach said Randolph’s experience was a key factor.

“In the end, I believe that Gwendolyn brings a considerable amount of experience and leadership to the council,” he said.

Residents were encouraged to apply for Marsh’s vacancy, and the mayor and current aldermen explained what is involved with serving during a July Town Hall meeting. Applications were due July 20.

State law requires that the mayor forward a replacement to the City Council within 60 days after the vacancy occurs.

After five years of serving Ward 5, Marsh announced her resignation at the June 18 meeting. She and her family were moving to the country, closer to Lebanon. She was elected in 2013 at age 26. At the time, she was the youngest member of the council, and had been the only female member during this period.

Marsh, a fifth-generation O’Fallon resident, grew up on Oak Hill School Road, and was returning there, along with husband Caleb and their five children. She continues to work as a realtor in O’Fallon and has been a broker associate since 2010 with Progressive Property Network.

Ward 5 may have two open seats in the next municipal election, which is April 2, 2019. Petitions can begin being circulated on Sept. 18, with filing from Dec. 10 to Dec. 17. Petitions are available in the City Clerk’s office during weekday business hours,

Roach said at least one seat is expected to be open in each ward. In Ward 5, Alderman Andrew Lopinot is running for St. Clair County Treasurer in the Nov. 6 election. Randolph is filling the unexpired term of Marsh, but can submit to run for the seat in the election.

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