On a map, 24 contiguous municipalities just northwest of St. Louis resemble nothing more than a crazy quilt. And for decades, their governance and services were a patchwork, too. Each municipality—from the tiny, two-street Village of Glen Echo Park, population 160, to the neighborhood-sized City of Normandy, population 5,008—has its own government. That’s two dozen mayors and city councils and almost as many police departments in an area that spans almost 11 square miles, is home to 36,250 people, and is served by one school district.
More than half a decade ago, city leaders rose above their individual municipal identities and city charters, embracing an “all-for-one” approach. Calling themselves “24:1,” they first came together in the midst of the nationwide mortgage foreclosure crisis that threatened the health of individuals, families, neighborhoods, and entire communities. Today, the 24:1 municipalities strive to realize a unified vision: strong communities, engaged families, and successful children.
“If one community fails, we all fail,” says James W. McGee, mayor of the City of Vinita Park on the western edge of the 24:1 footprint. “To start healing the community, you have to have everybody involved. If everybody takes ownership, then you’re going to have a healthier community.”
For this unique spirit of collaboration and healing, the 24:1 Community has been honored with the RWJF Culture of Health Prize.