I remember very clearly, back in late 1996, interviewing Jeffersontown Mayor Daniel Ruckriegel for a story in Business First. He insisted on holding the interview very early in the morning, and we talked about his health (he’d recently been in the hospital) and how he needed to cut down on the smoking and drinking — doctor’s orders. We discussed this as he smoked a cigarette, the last person I can remember smoking in his office.
He had been recovering from an aneurysm, and my story included details of his clashes with local media. It was rare for him to do an interview with media, but he was jovial and friendly. The coverage, especially by the Courier-Journal, was unfavorable, but he had a great quote about it: “I don’t agree with a lot of what they put in there, but they’ve got more in than I got,” he said.
Ruckriegel, 70, passed away today, 15 years after that interview at his Jeffersontown office. His poor health led him to give up being Mayor in 2001, but he later got elected to the City Council, where he still served until his death. He was first elected as Mayor in 1982 and won five terms. The city has since changed its laws to limit Mayor to three terms.
Everyone in Jeffersontown has a story about Ruckriegel, whose legacy includes a road around the city and the naming of the city’s Senior Citizens Center. Critics say he represented the “good ‘ole boy’ era of local politics, and he was occasionally skewered in the media for his penchant for doing favors for his friends.
But Ruckriegel’s supporters point to all that he accomplished, especially in establishing and supporting programs for children and senior citizens. He lived and breathed Jeffersontown, living much of his life in a home walking distance away from City Hall on Taylorsville Road.