Ladue mayor Nancy Spewak talks about her other job as an interior designer

When two new firehouses were built on Clayton Road in 2013 and 2017, Ladue mayor Nancy Spewak had strong opinions about the design. 

“The architectural firm had proposed using traditional firehouse colors for the interiors, like black and red, but I had a vision of more calming colors, like soft blues and warm whites,” she says. Fire and EMS crews live at the houses for 48-hour shifts, says Spewak, so she wanted the space to be a respite from the busyness and stress of their jobs. The mayor selected everything from the exterior light fixtures to the interior paint colors and carpet. “But I did let the crew have complete autonomy of the recliners,” she says, smiling. “They chose bonded leather.”

Perhaps not all mayors would be as invested in the design details of city buildings, but not all are professional interior designers like Spewak. 

During the day she wears two hats: One as mayor managing the City of Ladue, with a population of about 9,000 residents, and the other as the co-owner of a residential interior design firm. 

Spewak grew up in Ladue and was elected mayor 11 years ago after serving for a decade as a member of the city council. “I wanted to be mayor because I thought I could move Ladue in a direction that was community-oriented and forward-thinking, while also celebrating our traditions and rich heritage,” she says.

Interior design has also been a passion and career. About 20 years ago, Spewak began staging homes for real estate agents. Today, she runs the design firm Property Enhancements with her partner Susie Sheahan.

Some might not realize how common it is for mayors of small municipalities to work two jobs, but Spewak says most mayors have another profession. “You could make it a full time job,” she says. “If I didn’t have good department directors, I would have to be here a lot more.”

“People always say, ‘How do you split your day?’” she adds. “I overlap. Thankfully, I’m mobile.”

After a routine morning walk with a friend, Spewak starts her day at City Hall around 7:30 a.m., meeting with department directors or attending committee meetings. She’ll usually end her day there, too, but at 9:30 a.m. she heads to her office at Property Enhancements in Brentwood.

Spewak continues to stage homes for real estate agents, but she also designs new houses with architects and homeowners, and helps residents decorate their interior spaces. “It’s really fun,” she says. “Depending on where we are in the project we could be meeting with contractors, at the stone or tile place, or making furniture selections.”

“I always say that I don’t have a specific style,” she adds. “I’ve done midcentury, really modern, and very traditional. We get to know our clients and work from inspiration photos. We will design your home to look like your own taste.” 

Many of her clients also happen to live in the city that she manages. Ladue resident Maribeth Miltenberger hired Spewak when she and her family moved to the area in 2021, not realizing that she was also the mayor. “We were chatting while working on a project together and she mentioned something about calling the police chief,” she says. “I was confused and she said, ‘You know, I’m the mayor.’ I kind of laughed it off at first but realized it was true,” says Miltenberger.

“She had a great team, was good at sticking to the budget, and was excellent at communicating—which I think would be important as mayor too,” she adds.  

Spewak sees a lot of overlap in the skills required for the two jobs. “It’s the same skillset to pull people to a common goal and end result you’re looking for,” she explains.

Still, Spewak is careful not to let the two jobs get intertwined. “When my clients are building in Ladue, the city staff understands that I always support our ordinances and I would never undermine them. My clients are respectful that I follow the rules when the mayor is on the job.” 

As mayor, she oversees all department directors, like the police chief, fire chief, public works director, city clerk, and finance director. And along with the city council, she puts forth legislation ordinances to keep the city up to date. She’s also the face of the city, representing at ribbon cuttings and other public events.

And it certainly doesn’t hurt the town to have someone in charge who appreciates good design. Alongside her other priorities like public safety, Spewak has made it her mission to add and improve sidewalks, which allows residents to more fully enjoy the rolling hills and tree canopies. Her administration recently opened the Deer Creek Preserve, a nature trail that had been a longtime dream of hers. 

“I still have ideas and things I want to accomplish,” she says, putting on her mayor’s hat. “And I love interior design. I love Susie, our team, and my clients. I can’t believe I’m so lucky that I get to go to a job where I’m successful and love every minute of it.” 

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