Q&A: Meet Sen. John Ruckelshaus, ready to work across the aisle

By Quinn Fitzgerald and Zoie Richey

This story is part of a series of Q&As with newlyelected members of the Indiana House and Senate. Some responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

INDIANAPOLIS ­­— Sen. John Ruckelshaus, R-Indianapolis, is a familiar face to the Statehouse.

Meet Sen. John Ruckelshaus

Age: 57
Hometown: Indianapolis
Party: Republican
Occupation: Director of Business Development at Van Ausdall & Farrar

He served as a state representative from 1990 and 1992. Since his time in the House, he has worked alongside the Daniels Administration as deputy commissioner for the Department of Workforce Development, which allowed him to travel to all 92 counties in the state.

Ruckelshaus is a firm believer in working together with the other lawmakers to get the job done. 

“We all want to get to the same endpoint,” he said. “I don’t care about who’s got the pride of authorship. I don’t care if I get the credit or not, I just want to get it done.”

Ruckelshaus is part of the Environmental Affairs, Health and Provider Services, and Insurance and Financial Institutions committees.

TheStatehouseFile.com sat down with him to discuss his main goals for this legislative session, and what motivated him to return to the Statehouse.

Question: What are your main goals for your first legislative session?

File photo of Sen. John Ruckelshaus, R-Indianapolis, shaking hands with Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington. Photo by Quinn Fitzgerald, TheStatehouseFile.com

Answer: Main goals first legislative session are to help others. I’m a little bit unique in that I was a state representative from 1990-‘92, and then I worked in the Mitch Daniels administration. So, I know state government. I’ve worked in state government and I’ve been a legislator, and I was in business. There’s a lot of legislators that have been here 15, 20, 25 years that really don’t know how to navigate state government. So, I can kind of help them in that regard.

I also am cosponsoring several large bills. Very important bills — the early pre-K initiative with Sen. Holdman. My district is very concerned and very active with that, very supportive of that, so I’m helping Sen. Holdman with that bill. I also am very fond and have a great affection for persons with disabilities. I’m helping out Sen. Becker — a bill about handicap placards —changing the design. I’m working with Sen. Stoops right now about an inventory bill for disabilities. Inventory — meaning what services do we have that are available that will help the disability population get employment, get jobs. Their unemployment rate is very high — 60, 70, 80 percent. So what can we do as a state? Take an inventory of what we can do as a state to help those persons that are disabled to get to work, to get in the employment field. Self-satisfaction, self-worth. 

Q: What motivated you to run for office?

A: It’s always been in my blood and really what motivated me to come back, since I had been a state rep. before, was I saw politics in America and it’s still relevant today. It has become so fractionalized. It’s become square off and nobody is talking to each other, and that’s not what I am. I strongly believe in working with both parties. Matter of fact, most of the bills that I’m on, I am working with Democrats on that. I just firmly believe in that you get much more done when you work together.

Q: What are any unexpected challenges you might face this legislation?

A: The most unexpected challenges right now — when I say social media, we’re probably all going to cringe a little bit when I say that, because things have changed a lot since I served between ’90-’92, and it’s hard to get a message out. What I mean by that is that we try to have forms and we try to stay in close with our constituents by direct mail pieces, flyers, email and things like that. The public can take things in this world we live in today, some groups can take particular issues with facts and all of a sudden take it completely different and public opinion can be swayed very quickly. So, where as you could be working on a particular project to build momentum, to build the case and in a matter of a day, it could go in the opposite way.

Sen. John Ruckelshaus, R-Indianapolis, will focus on helping and working with others this legislative session. Photo by Quinn Fitzgerald, The StatehouseFile.com

Q: What is your number one philosophy in life and how do you live by that?

A: I live by it every day, and it’s very simple — you see the same people on the way down that you do going up. What I mean by that is you always stay humble. I don’t care where you get in life, how high you climb in life, no matter how difficult you think you have it, there is always somebody around the corner who has it much worse. Anything you can do to help that person, everybody is much better. 

Quinn Fitzgerald and Zoie Richey are reporters for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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