It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I sit down to write about the life of Al Reiderer, who this morning succumbed to the cancer that only became public knowledge about a month ago. He was only 67, but he made the most of every one of those years, and along the way he made his mark on some folks who would become very, very important and influential.
Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders said upon hearing of his passing “This guy was truly a great human being and a great man. We’ve lost one of our great citizens.” Mike isn’t known for understatements, but somehow even calling him “great” three times in two sentences doesn’t quite capture just how truly exceptional a man he was.
People who worked alongside him, professionally in the prosecutor’s office or during his time as a judge; or in a civic capacity in the community he loved and lived to serve, have gone on to great things. One became the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court and another now sits on the federal bench. Others now sit on the Missouri Court of Appeals. He worked alongside Emanuel Cleaver when EC was a community leader and city council member, before he was Mayor of our fair city, and long before he ran for and won his seat in Congress. He was just reelected to his fifth term representing the Missouri Fifth Congressional District and just completed his tenure as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
You also may have heard of a former assistant prosecutor of his, and successor to the office herself, a feisty little blond with a sharp tongue and a sharper wit by the name of Claire McCaskill. You may have noticed that it was her who played the state GOP like a fiddle in the last election. First she picked her own opponent and then she romped to a fifteen-point victory against said hand-picked opponent in November, beating him, as we say in Missouri, “like a rented mule.”
Mike Sanders, who served in the prosecutor’s office alongside Claire McCaskill and later held the job himself, credits Reiderer with creating the modern prosecutor’s office in Jackson County, where he introduced the drug unit, drug courts, COMBAT and anti-crime efforts, and putting an emphasis on treatment over incarceration. “Even during the meth and crack craze in the late ’80s, Albert went in a different direction,” Sanders said. “He said, ‘We can’t incarcerate our way out of this.’ He started treatment programs. He was a guy who was really ahead of his time.”
His dedication to public service, and pioneering spirit in his approach to it was inherited from his father, a noted jurist in our community who is credited with revolutionizing family courts the way his son would modernize the prosecutor’s office with the innovative approach of drug courts.
His loss is a great one, not just to his family, but to his friends and his community as well. He will be missed, and he will surely be remembered. The county Democratic Committee which he chaired through the early and mid 90s will no doubt introduce a yearly award in his name at the annual Truman Days celebration held each May.