Monday, June 18, 2018
Mike Luethe presided over his last Ridgeville Town meeting as chairman on Monday, March 13. He is not seeking re-election after serving as chairman for the last decade.

It's been a stressful decade for Ridgeville town chairman

Luethe not seeking re-election

As chairman of the Town of Ridgeville, Mike Luethe has had some pretty stressful days.

During his tenure as chair, the town dealt with some controversial issues, not the least of which were a battle over wind turbines, which pitted neighbors against neighbors and still is the source of bitter feelings a decade later, and a recall election.

Even now, more controversy is brewing with a cell tower possibly being erected in the town.

But Luethe won't be on the board for that debate. He's decided to call it quits after being on the town board for all but a couple of years since 1993, when he beat out Don Musbach by one vote. He's been the town chairman since 2007, when he won by only two votes.

"It really got stressful," said Luethe. "I'm going to be 64 in August and just decided maybe it's time to let somebody else do it. Maybe they'll have new ideas and a different approach."

Luethe has lived in Ridgeville his entire life, working the same farm he grew up on. His great-grandfather was the town clerk in 1800s and his grandfather was the clerk in the 1940s and 50s, before becoming chairman.

Today, Luethe milks 50 cows and drives a school bus for the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District.

Luethe said his wife, Cindy, won't miss having him on the board. "I bring it home," said Luethe.

There was relative calm in Ridgeville until the wind turbine issue blew into town. A company wanted to plant around 60 of the massive turbines on top of the ridges.

Luethe, who had just been elected chairman in April 2007, was holding his second meeting as chairman when the board vetoed the conditional use permit for the wind project, effectively killing it.

"There was tension," said Luethe, recalling how the crowd was so large it spilled into the parking lot.

The developer sued the town and a drawn-out legal battle ensued.

"On Thanksgiving Day I got a call and we found out it was in our favor," he said. "I've never seen the township torn apart like that. I never want to see that again."

Luethe 's not against the cell tower being proposed. "It sounds like something people need," he said.

But this is one issue he's not going to stress over because that's a problem for his successor. As will be the late night calls, especially when bad weather hits.

Luethe said he's got a few more years before he gives up the cows and the kids on his bus route. He's just happy to be going from town official to town resident.

He leaves behind a town government with a better business model and lot more transparency.

But he does have a little advice for those thinking of running for office in Ridgeville.

"If you can't take the stress, you better not be on the board, especially if you're chairman," he said.



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