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Sheboygan elects 27-year-old as youngest mayor ever

Posted at 6:46 PM, Apr 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-07 23:40:45-04

SHEBOYGAN — All day Wednesday, as 27-year-old Ryan Sorenson walked through downtown Sheboygan, he was greeted with handshakes and praise. On Tuesday, he was elected as the youngest ever mayor in Sheboygan.

"What's kind of next step? How can I do the most good in my hometown? So I had a lot of people encourage me to run for mayor and jumped in the race, and here we are today," Mayor-elect Sorenson said.

He is one of the youngest ever mayors in Wisconsin. Zach Vruwink, 24, was elected as mayor in Wisconsin Rapids. Justin Nickels was elected as mayor of Manitowoc at 22.

For Sorenson, he feels like his age helped his campaign.

"I think we're ready to have that new leadership, and my age I think is a benefit. It's an asset. I have the experience, but I also have that energy and optimism," he said.

He went to Sheboygan South High School before getting a political science degree from UW-Milwaukee. After college, he was on the Sheboygan City Council for four years and served as the council president.

Sorenson beat two-term former Mayor Mike Vandersteen on Tuesday.

"It's not something I woke up one day and like, 'I'm going to, you know, do local government.' It's been kind of instilled in me from an early age," he said.

Before getting into all of his politics, who is this young mayor?

"I use to be able to ride a unicycle early on. I play the saxophone. I'm a huge Star Wars nerd."

He said that he used Star Wars to help him decompress during a tough campaign. His love for the movie franchise and his love for politics actually go hand-in-hand too.

"My favorite part of Attack of the Clones Episode II was the politics of it all. Because obviously I'm a political nerd, and I can connect and empathize with what goes on in the galactic senate."

Don't worry citizens of Sheboygan. He said he has no secret plans to act as Palpatine did. That also means he won't be using taxpayer money to build a Death Star.

I asked him what one of his favorite childhood spots was in Sheboygan. For him, it was Lake Michigan.

"Just growing up on the lake. Enjoying it. Fishing. Going boating. Learning to water ski. Learning to swim. I think it was a huge part of me that kind of just shaped kind of who I was as a person, and it's something that I just fell in love with," he said.

His love for the water might have to take a bit of a backseat as he starts his job as mayor on April 20. Sorenson said he has three main objectives he wants to accomplish as leader of the city.

"Infrastructure impacts our business, tourism, daily life. We have to make sure our roads are repaired."

He brought me to one spot in specific, South 10th Street and Clara Avenue. It was apparent potholes had been filled there throughout the years, but the road continued to crack and deteriorate.

"Housing is fundamental to making sure everyone can thrive and be successful in their life."

Sorenson wants to focus on affordable housing and making sure seniors have access to appropriate housing too.

Finally, as is customary with so many cities right now, local businesses have taken a big hit during the pandemic. Sorenson said it's imperative to focus on supporting local businesses.

As to whether he is sick of people talking about his age, "I'm not tired of hearing it yet."

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