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With skating years behind, Seybold gets political

1988 Olympian pursues congressional seat after three terms as mayor

Wayne Seybold's skating career benefited him greatly in the political arena.
Wayne Seybold's skating career benefited him greatly in the political arena. (Courtesy of Wayne Seybold)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(05/03/2012) - In the 1980s, competition days for Wayne Seybold involved boots, blades, sparkly costumes and ice. Next week, Seybold will be judged on different criteria as he makes a run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Now in his third term as the mayor of his hometown, Marion, Ind., Seybold is one of seven candidates seeking the Republican nomination for a seat in Congress.

Seybold and sister Natalie (known as Kim) were 1982 U.S. junior pairs champions, four-time U.S. senior medalists, four-time world competitors and 1988 Olympians. Their family's sacrifices to keep them in skating were well known, especially the fact that they gave up a larger house and lived in a trailer park in order to afford training.

It is those sacrifices, determination, discipline and other lessons learned in skating that Seybold, 48, has drawn on since entering politics about a decade ago.

"I always tell everybody that the politics of skating are much worse than the politics of politics," he said with a laugh. "One thing that skating teaches, or any sport that you go to a high level in, is discipline. It's knowing how to work your schedule and putting in the hours.

"I always refer back to my skating days," he added. "This is no different than when I went to the rink every single day and took lessons. I feel like I'm a student of the game. We're trying to educate ourselves every single day as to what's going on -- not only at the federal level and how it's going to affect local government, but the state level and what's going on in our own area."

He's encouraged the citizens of Marion to get involved. When he first became mayor, there were five neighborhood associations. Now there are 36.

His entry into politics was somewhat by chance.

"I was living in Los Angeles and producing ice shows. Then I wanted to get closer to home to be near my family," Seybold said. "I was still doing some work in the ice show business and then opened up a restaurant. The mayor at that time came to me and asked if I'd run for city council. I resisted for a little while because I was pretty busy, but then I finally said yes and won that city council at large seat."

In 2003, he decided to run for mayor of Marion, a city of approximately 30,000, and won. He was elected to a third consecutive term last November. At the beginning of February, longtime congressman Dan Burton announced his retirement and Seybold decided to enter the race. Burton has endorsed Seybold for the May 8 primary.

Seybold considers the mayor CEO of the city. He compares some of his mayoral duties to tasks for which he was responsible as a producer.

"Instead of a costume designer and a set designer, you've got a parks department and a streets department," he said. "We went through the same motions and built a program: Hired people that know what they're doing and then went to work.

"We've had a lot of really cool things happening here in Marion," he continued. "Two years ago, we got ranked ninth in the nation by Site Selection magazine for economic develop for micro-cities, which are cities 50,000 or less, for companies we've attracted to the city, investment and so forth.

"It's been the main focus of my administration: working on creating the environment where companies want to come and where they can be successful."

Although he'd prefer to stay close to home with wife Jennifer and sons Michael, John and James, Seybold has traveled extensively to encourage companies to invest in Marion and create job opportunities. In the last two years, he's made seven trips to China. He's also been to Turkey, Russia and Canada as well as all over the United States.

Seybold still has a hand in skating. He has a business called Ice Rinks to Go, where he rents out various-sized portable rinks. The busiest times are during the holidays when there's a significant demand for seasonal rinks, but he's also worked with Disson Skating on a couple of shows.

Skating can come in handy during stressful moments. As mayor, he does a radio call-in show, and last year one caller was trying very hard to rattle him.

"I said, 'You've got to remember I used to wear spandex for a living; you're not going to embarrass me,'" Seybold recounted. "He started cracking up and the radio people started cracking up. I fall back onto those experiences that were garnered through our skating days quite a bit."

He takes his sons skating recreationally and said James, the 4-year-old, has the greatest affinity for the ice. Seybold's family has been helping him with his congressional campaign, including his sister, who returned to Delaware last year to coach.

Seybold said if he wins a seat in Congress, his family will remain based in Marion and he'll commute home to be with them.

His TV commercial combines a bit of his past with his present -- he delivers his campaign message while roller blading through the streets of Marion.

"It's weird where life takes you," Seybold admitted. "If you'd have asked me 20 years ago if I'd be involved in politics at the local level or running at the national level, I would have probably laughed. But when I moved back to Marion and someone said, 'You ought to run for city council,' it started me on this whole new path that I never anticipated."