Hey, Neighbor!Vernon Betts

City of St. Louis Sheriff and St. Louis Place resident, Vernon Betts
Photo provided by: Vernon Betts

Lifelong St. Louisan Vernon Betts has lived in St. Louis Place more than 20 years, and is "excited, delighted and tickled to death" that NGA will build its new facility in his historic neighborhood. As the Sheriff for the City of St. Louis, he is responsible for the safety and security of 31 divisional courtrooms of the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court and manages 173 sworn deputies. Betts believes that the future revitalization potential for his neighborhood is finally gaining momentum and that it's long overdue.

You have been a St. Louis Place resident for more than 20 years. What attracted you to this neighborhood and why did you choose to remain when others left?

You know the old real estate adage "location, location, location?" Well that phrase perfectly describes why I like living in the St. Louis Place neighborhood. It's a great location for just about everything. Close to my job, quick and easy access to downtown events like major sports and cultural attractions, close to my family, close to major highways. I chose to stay here because I strongly feel this area would eventually return to the status it once had. There are so many beautiful homes here that have history and unique charm.

Speaking of history, you have a personal history of being a strong vocal supporter for revitalizing St. Louis Place and the potential your neighborhood offers for new residents and businesses. What are some of the efforts you have been involved with?

As the former president of the St. Louis Place Neighborhood Association, I worked hard and tried many times to launch projects that would start a groundswell of support for renovation in this neighborhood. Among those initiatives was a plan to build a golf course that included adjacent homes in the greenspace. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned plan fell victim to local politics. Our neighborhood association tried to work with realtors, contractors, banks, city government officials and there was always one problem after another and there was just too much red tape. But here we are 25 years later and now the Next NGA West project is a reality. This federal project won't have to deal with the problems we encountered back then. NGA will be successful in making this long-overdue transformation possible that will attract renewed interest in people who want to work and live in this neighborhood. They will be drawn to live and work here for the same reasons that kept me here. We're close to downtown, I-70 and I-44, sport events and concerts. Less than 15 minutes from hospitals, courts, City Hall, Forest Park, zoo, Science Center and many more.

How much work have you put in to your beautiful house and do you know any of your home's past history?

Our home was built in 1904 which was a very historic year for St. Louis. It was built by the owner of a prominent local ice company and has a century of history which includes being used as a rooming house at one time. It's a big three-story, 5,000 square foot,13 room home that took plenty of hard work and a good deal of money to get back into shape. Among my home's many features that my wife and daughter enjoy is the great view of downtown from our third-floor windows.

What do you think the impact of this new construction will be within your neighborhood and is your enthusiasm shared by your neighbors?

I'm very excited that NGA made their decision to relocate their new headquarters to my neighborhood. I can't say that all my neighbors feel the way I do, but I think 99 percent of them do. The impact of this new construction will be huge and beneficial to many. I'm very upbeat that Metro Link will add a new route to serve residents and the many NGA employees that will be working here once the new facility is built. I also believe that new homes will also be built, and property value will also go up. Best of all, I expect this opportunity will take care of the vacant lots and abandoned homes, and that this neighborhood of mine will come back to what it once was.

Your career path has certainly taken advantage of emergent opportunities that includes working as a teacher, working for Ameren and now as the Sheriff for the City of St. Louis. Which job did you like the best and why?

That's a tough question. The best job that I've had in my career is the one I am doing now as the Sheriff for the City of St. Louis. I'm very fortunate to be a leader doing important work and having decision-making authority. It's a tough job, but I enjoy what I do and the recognition that comes with the job. That said, I still have great memories of my first job as a teacher. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing kids learn, grow and succeed. I spent six years in the classroom and then worked as a substitute teacher for an additional 10 years while I worked nights at Ameren/UE.

The views presented are those of the participant interviewed and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or NGA, or any of their components. No endorsement is expressed or implied.

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Hey, Neighbor!Calvin Riley

Calvin Riley, African-American historian and educator
Photo provided by: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Calvin Riley turned a lifelong passion for collecting rare black Americana artifacts into the George B. Vashon African-American museum located in the historic St. Louis Place neighborhood he calls home. Riley is a St. Louis native, retired educator, and law enforcement official who began collecting black memorabilia as a hobby nearly 40 years ago. His museum's mission is to preserve the history and achievements of St. Louis African Americans and recognize those who fought for civil rights and to change unjust laws. Riley is a proponent of the Next NGA West project and says that this new facility near the museum is a blessing for his neighborhood.

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