Luzerne’s Ryan Rupp enjoys following family footsteps onto the Luzerne City Council
By JUDY SCHLESSELMAN
|High school senior Ryan Rupp is the youngest city councilman in the history of Luzerne and the third generation in his family to serve on the council. He is shown on the bridge that spans the railroad tracks in Luzerne, a structure his late grandfather, Ervin Glinsmann, spearheaded while serving as mayor.|
He may be a novice in city government, but Luzerne’s newest councilman is no stranger to the council chambers.
Ryan Rupp, 18, assumed his official duties in December after garnering 12 write-in votes in last November’s election, making him the youngest councilman in Luzerne’s history. But that first council meeting was not really his first.
Ryan’s mother and father, Rick and Jackie Rupp, as well as his late grandfather, Ervin Glinsmann, all served on the council and as mayor of Luzerne, population 105. As a tot, Ryan wasn’t left out of the action.
“When I was little, my dad and mom would both have to go to the city council meeting, so as opposed to getting me a babysitter, I would go and sit on one of their laps,” said Rupp, now a senior at Belle Plaine High School.
His interest in being the third generation in his family to serve Luzerne piqued last fall when government teacher Mark Tegeler asked his students to attend a school board or city council meeting and write about the proceedings.
Rupp decided to take in Luzerne’s council meeting and overheard several members, including his uncle, Dwight Glinsmann, discuss their intentions to run again in November. That left two council seats up for grabs.
“We elect five, so I thought, ‘I could get on there. I’m 18,’” Rupp recalled.
With the full support of his parents and uncle, Rupp began a low-key campaign. He talked to a few voters, and his uncle helped spread the word around town. “I knew I didn’t need many votes,” Rupp said.
When the results came in, Rick and Jackie were understandably proud to learn their son was the top vote getter of the four write-in candidates. But their enthusiasm was tempered with reality.
“My mom said, ‘Congratulations,’ and gave me a high five, and that was the end of the conversation,” Rupp laughed.
Shocked that he won, Rupp’s government teacher gave him a little extra credit on his grade. Tegeler also featured Rupp in his daily News Notes for Iowa, the first student ever to make the teacher’s current events activity.
Rupp said the three council meetings he’s attended so far have been what he expected and remembered from his youth. There haven’t been many surprises or challenges. Since he took his seat, the council changed insurance companies and continues to deal with a non-functioning light on the bridge over the railroad tracks.
The issues facing small town government can be quite different from big city concerns.
“We don’t have any really pressing issues,” Rupp noted. “When I attended the meeting before I was on the council, they discussed what to do with the tables (in the community building) if they have dirt on them. That was the big topic.”
Being a councilman is a great opportunity to learn leadership skills and has already made Rupp very comfortable talking with older Luzerne residents as an equal, rather than a high school student, he said.
Although he doesn’t offer much input at most meetings, Rupp said he fully understands what’s up for consideration. Fellow councilmen do a good job of explaining city matters and treat him as an equal.
First-term Mayor John Brandt is happy to have Rupp onboard. “He brings a certain vision I lost years ago as a high school student. He’s made all the meetings and goes with the flow. I think he’s learning and listening, and that’s good.”
Brandt added the city would soon begin work on a grant through the United States Department of Agriculture for a new storage shed. Rupp will have an opportunity to be involved if he chooses.
Rupp said Luzerne has been a great place to grow up. “I like knowing everybody I live by.”
But life will change this fall when Rupp heads to college to study either biology or biochemistry. Both Cornell in Mt. Vernon and Luther, Decorah, have recruited him to play football, but he hasn’t selected a school yet. He does plan to return home for Luzerne’s monthly council meetings.
It’s unlikely Rupp will delve any further into politics than his term on the city council.
“I never have been a politically oriented person. I’m strong in my opinions about politics, but I don’t think I can be involved with it,” he said.
UPDATED February 24, 2010 11:47 AM