Good government is Ryan J. Bingham – A young politician you want to believe in
Mayor Ryan J. Bingham, a young man with a modern outlook and old-fashioned family values
Making history following family tradition
At 22, Ryan had made his mark in Connecticut history as the youngest person ever elected mayor in the state. Quite an achievement in 2005 considering he was a recent college graduate with a degree in political science and had never before entertained running for public office.
After winning a second two-year term, voters again gave him a resounding approval with his recent 2009 win to the city’s first four-year mayoral appointment. Now with three successful elections under his belt, he has proven to the naysayers, and more importantly to the people of his city, that he is the right man for the job – the mayor of Torrington, CT, a sprawling city of over 35,000 residents in the northwest hills of Litchfield county.
How it all began – his family’s devotion to the community
For four generations, his family of industrious dairy farmers have tilled the rock-strewn soil in the hills of Northwest Connecticut. For two generations, his family members have also worked diligently in the state legislature to build programs to benefit their constituents. Today, as one of the up and coming leaders of the next generation, Mayor Ryan J. Bingham continues his family’s history of public service and community involvement in his beloved hometown of Torrington.
Learning about the commitment to public service
For much of his young life, Ryan’s grandfather, Joe Ruwet, represented the city of Torrington in the Connecticut legislature; a position he held for twelve years. Growing up on his grandfather’s farm, Ryan enjoyed the camaraderie of the members of the community who often came to visit.
During high school, his mother, Anne Ruwet, continued the family tradition of civic duty and ran for city council where she served for several years. Later when she ran for the state legislature, she won the seat by just one vote. Like her father before her, Anne gave it her all and happily served the people of Torrington for many years. She held her seat through Ryan’s college years until this past November.
Growing up in the Ruwet household, Ryan observed the strong commitment his family had to serving the people of Torrington, and the sacrifices they made to do so. Without his even knowing it at the time, it was the best political experience a young man could have.
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Where to go to learn about government
Ryan was born a long way from Connecticut in Ventura, California. After his parents divorced when he was very young, his mother returned the family to Torrington. Ryan and his brother, Dustin, who is a few years older, spent their childhood and high school years travelling cross country spending time with both families. When it came time to choose a college, however, his understanding of state politics from his grandfather and mother, left him little choice if he really wanted to study government. He chose Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York where he majored in political science and sociology.
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Ryan knew that he wanted to be involved in government and politics, but not necessarily to run for public office. He had witnessed how the stresses affected his mother’s personal life and it made him pause. “If you truly care about the people that you represent and you see sniping comments and people with agendas, it gets frustrating. People call late at night,” said Ryan. “As a high school kid, I learned what it meant to be a public official, running for office, and believing in something.”
Government does a lot of good
“What shaped me was seeing government actually do something positive,” said Ryan. “Too often kids or young adults are raised in a family or in a society that much too often highlights the negatives of government, complains about government. Much more often than not, government runs very well and does a lot of good.
I got to see that firsthand both at a state level and the respect that my grandfather had for some of the legislation that he was a part of, and on the local level as my mom did city council and being involved in town committees.
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Knowing what the people need
When deciding to run for mayor, Ryan wanted the opportunity to put his heart and soul into the great city he loves. He has no idea why the town committee chose him as a candidate, and supported him for two re-elections. Perhaps it was his youth, his enthusiasm or love of his city. It doesn’t really matter to him; he’s just excited to be in a position to help his hometown. He also appreciates their confidence in his ability to lead, but humbly directs attention to the work ahead of him and the need for everyone to come together to continue the city’s positive growth.
He says he makes it a point throughout the year, and not only in election seasons, to go out and visit neighborhoods; go to businesses and talk to the people. The feedback he gets from even the most brutally honest people is that they appreciate what he is doing; they disagree with some things but for the most part they know that what he’s doing is a good thing. “We’re now starting to think of Torrington moving in a positive direction. We’re starting to see visible signs of improvement whether it is in our school system, public safety, downtown or economic development.” These are all issues, by the way, that he campaigned for and has worked tirelessly to advance.
The seniors are an important constituency for Ryan. When going door-to-door, he met with many elderly people who wanted a change in local politics. “Seniors love the fact that twice out of my three real budgets, I’ve been able to keep taxes even. A lot of times they tell me if you keep doing that, we’ll vote for you for life.”
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Voters approve of the way he listens
Ryan’s youth may be his greatest asset. He’s unafraid to look at new ways to solve old problems,to try different approaches, and is genuinely open to new ideas from everyone in the community.
The one comment that is consistently heard about Ryan is that he is willing to listen. In fact, that was a cornerstone of his campaign and is a centerpiece of how he runs the mayor’s office in downtown Torrington. Although he is a Republican, he encourages people of all political affiliations to talk with him. He has an open door policy to invite people to share their ideas, opinions and plans. He doesn’t care much about whose idea it is, as long as it works well for the city.
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On his reelection2009 website, there was another well-placed official who echoed the sentiments of the residents of Torrington. It was a strong endorsement from the highest elected official in the state – Governor Jodi Rell – who said, “Ryan Bingham has worked tirelessly advocating for the people of Torrington over the last four years. He has done a wonderful job of looking out for the taxpayers, and being fiscally responsible in these trying economic times. Ryan also takes no pride in ownership of ideas. Any initiative that is positive for Torrington is welcomed, regardless of whether it comes from a Democrat or a Republican. That’s true leadership.”
It’s not always about politics
Although politics are part of the family business, it’s all about family when the Ruwets gets together. “Our families are so big and we have so much to talk about. Rarely do we talk about politics,” said Ryan.
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He appointed his mother to his fundraising committee. “She’s very good at pulling events together and making sure the wine and cheese are good because I’m certainly not a connoisseur. Her friends love to do that stuff, and they aren’t involved in politics. They like to make things look good and make people feel comfortable.” Another family tradition that continues – care for others who come first.
What the future holds
Ryan is the first to admit he has much to learn and he appreciates the wisdom and experience of others, even after three successful elections. Unlike many seasoned politicians, Ryan listens to his heart, perhaps because he spends so much of his time earnestly talking to the people he represents. He knows what they need. His goals are simple, and in sync with many voters. He wants government to work, to better people’s lives, and to stay within a fixed budget.
He first lessons in good government came from being around his grandfather and mother who both worked tirelessly to do right for their constituents. His family, while rich in traditions and a culture of community service, is not wealthy. He’s had to make it on his own, just like the rest of us.
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Taken together, all of these experiences have helped shaped him into a young man ready to move forward with old and trusted values as his guide. While Ryan is looking ahead to the next four years as mayor, what he will do afterward is anyone’s guess. Let’s hope he remains in government. At this time in our history, we really need a good man in politics to believe in.
Tags: Marist College, Ruwet, Ryan Bingham, Torrington, mayor of Torrington