Interview by Phoebe Yao
Ben Uchitelle has lived in Clayton since 1961 and has a played a large part in the establishment and foundation of current city government. From studying at University of Michigan undergrad and moving on to Harvard Law School, Uchitelle also joined the US National Guard in his early years before settling down in Saint Louis to practice law.
Though his favorite moments in Clayton are those he has spent with his family, Uchitelle has many spectacular marks in Clayton politics. He has been an Alderman, a member of the Clayton Architectural Review and City Planning Commission, and sat three terms, or ten years, as mayor of Clayton in the 1990’s, more than any other Clayton Mayor since. As mayor, Uchitelle advocated term limits, retained Enterprise Rent-A-Car as a key employer in Clayton, instituted the widely popular St. Louis Arts Fair with Susan Uchitelle, his wife, prevailed upon the city to keep Clayton as the seat of St. Louis county with the county jail and city justice center at the heart of Clayton, been instrumental in the growth of Centene, advocated for the Metrolink, and succeed in the Center of Clayton partnership between the School District and the City of Clayton, which has played a key role in the development of the community. During Uchitelle’s time as mayor, his mantra may be summed up into three simple words.
“Safety, Services, Schools. Schools, Services, Safety,” Uchitelle said, “If you have good services you’ll have people who are happy, if you have good schools, you’ll have people who are happy, if you have safety you’ll have people who are happy. One is no more important than the next.”
Additionally, Uchitelle has always worked hard to keep Clayton a vibrant place by maintaining a balance between residential and commercial areas in Clayton. Currently his favorite traditions include the opening of the swimming pool every year, the leaf collection in the fall, and the Clayton century foundation and their 100 years celebration.
Presently, as Chairman of the Zoo/Museum district, the district that supports the zoo, historical society, arts museum, and botanical garden, Uchitelle is fighting to make sure the arts remain strong in Saint Louis. Additionally, Uchitelle is a member of the Loop Trolley Board, and hopes to eventually bring the Delmar Trolley to Forest Park, the Zoo, the Central West End, and of course, Clayton.
Finally, Uchitelle is teaching a class at the Honors College at UMSL on the US constitution. On recent accomplishments, he says: “I just ran a half marathon. Ran is not the right word. Ran, jogged, walked. But I got it done, so I’m keeping busy,” Uchitelle said.