Talk of the Towns

Talk of the Towns: 4.29.20

St. Louis is known for its generous spirit, and few doubt the metro will return to the vibrant, active place it was before the coronavirus pandemic struck. This is the first in a series of responses from The Lou’s best and brightest to the question: What have you learned during this time, and what are your hopes for St. Louis in the months ahead?

jim kavanaugh, ceo, world wide technology 
“As painful and devastating as this global crisis has been, it also has been amazing to see the spirit, grit, determination, heart, caring and selflessness displayed by people here in St. Louis and around the world. Difficult times reveal character, but they also reveal how truly selfless people can be. A huge thanks goes out to all the frontline workers—and a very special thanks to all the health care workers! You are the true heroes in fighting this global crisis. Thank you for all you do—and please be safe!”


gregory r. smith, chairman, husch blackwell
“The best news coming out of this pandemic is that our regional elected and civic leadership is capable of acting appropriately in their approach to problems. Kudos to Dr. Alex Garza and those leaders who have come together to allow him to direct our response to this pandemic. My hope is that this sort of cooperation allows us to attack other regional issues with the same spirit of collaboration. My other observation is that the problem with working from home is that you are always at work!”


carolyn kindle betz, president, enterprise holdings foundation
“I have learned a lot during this. Using Zoom for virtual meetings has been a challenge, but I think I have figured it out … hopefully. Also, I have realized I have way too many shoes, and I need to adhere to a strict spring cleaning schedule! In all seriousness, I am confident we will get through this and come out a much stronger region. However, that means all of us need to adhere to the ‘stay at home’ order and continue to keep ourselves—and each other—safe and healthy.”


todd schnuck, chairman & ceo, schnuck markets
“Rather than teach me something new, the pandemic has cemented for me something I’ve always known—Schnucks employees come together as one team during the most challenging times so that we can continue nourishing the lives of our customers and communities. Although these are uncertain and unprecedented times, I’ve never been more proud to be a Schnucks teammate than I am today, and I thank all 14,000 teammates for working as hard now as ever to put our customers first. St. Louis and our entire region will rebound—just as we do every time we’re faced with a crisis. Until then, please remember to wash your hands often, avoid touching your face—and know that Schnucks will serve you just as we have for 80-plus years.


joe edwards, civic leader and u. city entrepreneur
“I’m reporting from Blueberry Hill, where we’ve been ‘washing our hands since 1972.’ I’ve been impressed by how many St. Louisans have been following the expert medical recommendations. That will enable our many colorful neighborhoods to re-open sooner. It will be exciting watching people enjoy the Delmar Loop’s unique restaurant, shopping, arts and entertainment choices again. Right now, there’s plenty of free parking!”


robert chapman, chairman & ceo, barry-wehmiller
“This has been an unprecedented shock to the global economic system. Despite a period of peace and prosperity and record employment numbers, studies show an extremely high level of anxiety. Many companies, unfortunately, view people as a function. And, most workers would fire their bosses. The way you are treated? You take that home. I worry about the people in our company who have been unintentionally devastated. This pandemic has had immediate consequences, but it also will have secondary consequences and present sustained challenges. Employers must be more in touch with their humanity. Our 12,000 people around the world feel safe; they’re not dying for a paycheck. We treat them like your kids, or my kids. No one will be furloughed. Our product is our people. I’m not concerned about our machines; I’m thinking about the people who build and operate our machines.”

andrew jorgensen, general director, opera theatre of saint louis
“The crisis has reminded us how deeply St. Louisans care for the organizations that make ours a great community—we’ve experienced it firsthand, as our patrons and audiences have rallied to our side since we were forced to cancel our festival season. Now is the time for everyone to continue doing their part to flatten the curve and defeat this terrible virus, but also, as we emerge from this crisis, I hope we’ll continue to see our community come together to support and sustain the independent restaurants, small businesses, museums, and performing arts and cultural institutions that all make St. Louis so special. We are proud to play a role in enriching the fabric of this community, and we look forward to re-opening our doors just as soon as we can safely do so.”


Photo courtesy of Nine Network

notable neighbors
grand center
“For people who seek great certainty, this is a very difficult time,” says Amy Shaw, president and CEO of the Nine Network of Public Media, of the COVID-19 pandemic. But she could just as well have been talking about her profound feelings of shock and anguish when her predecessor and mentor, Jack Galmiche, died suddenly at work last year on April 16. Galmiche had planned to retire in June 2020. Shaw had been the network’s interim topper since that February, noting that she and Galmiche “sparred really well,” and had for a dozen years at St. Louis’ beloved public television station, KETC (Channel 9). In late March, we interviewed Shaw by phone; she’d already been working remotely from her Creve Coeur home. She noted that her 54 full-timers also have been working offsite and “are doing the work of three times that crew.” Her team meets every morning via Zoom, and the entire staff has a ‘virtual’ lunch in cyberspace on Fridays. (We surmise real food is involved, but these days, who knows what’s possible?) “We’ve always focused on resiliency,” she says. “We’ve created the kind of team that can weather this crisis.” Channel 9 has been a ‘go-to’ station in the PBS network, having produced in 2008 a highly regarded series that dissected the real reasons behind the Great Recession. Shaw notes that her station had been “a star pupil in the community-engagement initiative” that used our last financial crisis as a test case, so to speak. It wasn’t willy-nilly consumer spending, of course, as some pundits would have had us believe, but a mortgage crisis precipitated by the wide practice of banks luring customers with risky, sub-prime loans. “We took that work to 75 TV and radio stations nationwide,” says Shaw, half of a ‘power couple’ in the Lou: her husband Bob Shaw also is working remotely as chair of the MICDS Science Department. But it’s less anxiety-inducing for the Shaws than it may be for some local families: They have only fur babies underfoot, which they can order to get off of the furniture. Of course, both recognize their importance to essential community resources: education and trustworthy media. For Amy Shaw, it’s both, which have been key to the station’s mission for decades before she came aboard. T&S receives weekly updates on Nine Network programming, including the learning options provided to pre-K through 12th grade audiences—not to mention the incomparable fare targeting adults (or viewers who act like they are) who have enjoyed The Roosevelts and Ken Burns’ Country Music … and would only roll their eyes at The Real Housewives of Chesterfield or wherever. Other than having to become adept at the Zoom meeting program in a minute, Shaw has had little trouble adjusting. “There’s no normal these days, that’s for sure,” she says. “But in a crisis, you become more of who you really are.”

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