In 1965 Alfonso J. Cervantes became the forty-third Mayor of St. Louis.
In the March 9, 1965 Democratic primary he defeated Mayor Tucker's bid for a fourth term by a vote of 83,698 to 68,379. A third candidate, John Noel, received 1,087, thus making a total of 153,164 votes cast in this Democratic Mayoral race. Mr. Cervantes won election as Mayor in the April 6, 1965 City election, over Republican Maurice R. Zumwalt, by a vote of 102,961 to 47,510.
Three of Cervantes' greatest contributions were in the fields of race relation, crime-fighting, and city finance.
While other cities suffered through race riots, the peace was kept in St. Louis. Mayor Cenvantes met with and talked at length with African-American leaders. African-Americans were added to City government positions and 95 were appointed to City commissions.
Cervantes took the lead to get the City Aldermen to pass crime-fighting legislation. A Commission on Crime and Law Enforcement was created. Pawnshop owners were required to photograph customers and record the identity of sellers. Voters were convinced to pass a one per cent sales tax to put policemen on horseback in the parks. Car thefts were reduced by his 'lock it and pocket the key' program.
In finance Mayor Cervantes was successful in getting a $2,000,000 bond issue passed for completion of the Arch and grounds. This was necessary to get $6,000,000 in Federal aid. A $15,000,000 bond issue for street lighting and a juvenile center was passed in 1972 after he found ways to pay off the bonds without increasing the property tax. Business taxes and convention revenue were the answer.
Other successes during his two terms included establishment of Night Housing Court, organization of a Business Development Commission to help keep businesses in the City and bring in new ones along with seting up the Area Office of Aging, Beautification Commission, and Citizens Service Bureau to handle complaints. A Land Reutilization Authority was created to take over vacant properties and group them for re-use.
Mayor Cervantes failed in his attempt to get a new airport started in an area south of East St. Louis. He thought this would be a great benefit to the City and downtown St. Louis, but the proposal stirred up so much controversy in St. Louis County and Jefferson City that it helped lead to his defeat for a third term in 1973.