Hazelwood elects first African American to city council

HAZELWOOD — Lisa M. Matlock, a grandmother with two jobs, made history here this week by becoming the first African American elected to the Hazelwood City Council.

She did it as a write-in candidate for Ward 5.

“It’s nice to know that people are there for me,” Matlock, 62, said Thursday by telephone. “And I’ll be there for them.”

Matlock was one of two Black women running for council seats in Hazelwood in Tuesday’s election. Both were featured in a recent in-depth Post-Dispatch story about city councils in north St. Louis County whose elected representatives don’t reflect rapid demographic changes in neighborhoods.

Helena Smith, who moved here after Hurricane Katrina, lost the Ward 7 race to Robert C. Smith, 185 votes to 147. She said she’d continue to be involved in her neighborhood and at City Hall with the slogan: “United Together for Solutions.”

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Hazelwood’s overall population remained stable the past decade, hovering around 25,000 people, but the demographics changed significantly. According to decennial census figures, the percentage of white residents dropped from 64% in 2010 to 45% in 2020, or by about 5,000 people, while the percentage of African Americans rose from 30% to 44%. There is almost an equal number of white and Black residents in Hazelwood today.

In early December, Hazelwood made significant changes to its ward boundaries after a redistricting commission reviewed the latest census data as required by the city charter. Under the new map, four wards have a majority of Black residents and four have a white majority.

William “Cowboy” Frierson, retired from McDonnell Douglas, was the first African American to run for Hazelwood City Council, in 2005. He lost, 166 votes to 41.

Matlock, who has lived most of her life in North County, previously ran for Ward 5 in 2016. She lost but was appointed to the seat in May 2021, making her the first African American to serve on the council. On Tuesday, after winning at least 37 of 48 votes as a write-in candidate, she’s the first to be elected.

Matlock ran as a write-in candidate because she didn’t get enough signatures in time for the filing deadline.

“It’s not a one-person job,” said Matlock. “Everyone has to get involved. We all have to work as one to get our city to where we want it to be.”

Apart from the city council, Matlock works the early morning shift at Amazon, processing returns, and spends the rest of the day doing sales and marketing for a different company.

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