By Emily Thompson | BSU at the Games
Every other Thursday, the Republican mayor of Marion, Ind., hosts a local hour-long radio show. Wayne Seybold takes unscreened calls from city citizens concerned about everything from getting potholes fixed to bringing more businesses to Marion.
“One morning, I’m on my radio show, and someone is just kind of letting me have it over some things that we’ve been doing,” Seybold said. “And I said, ‘Well sir, I know you’re try to put me in an embarrassing situation, and that’s fine. I mean I used to wear spandex for a living.’”
As a 1988 Olympic ice skater, Seybold has had his fair share of spandex costumes. From Olympian to mayor of Marion, he also has a long history of representing his community. Now in his third term, Seybold is Marion’s first three-consecutive-term mayor. On February 9, Seybold announced that he has decided to run for the 5th District Congressional seat currently held by Dan Burton. Although the jump from Olympic ice-skating to politics seems disjointed, Seybold is a man of many talents—but more importantly, he always thinks two steps ahead in terms of life goals.
From the beginning
Seybold grew up in a single-wide, three-bedroom trailer on the south side of Marion with his sister, Kim, his brother and his parents. As a boy, Seybold was a “normal skinny kid” who was very active and spent all of his free time outdoors. From a young age, he and his sister enjoyed roller-skating at Idyl Wyld Roller Palace in Marion. The hobby stuck, and they began roller-skating in the summer and ice-skating in the winter. Marion didn’t have an ice rink, though, so their parents drove Seybold and his sister to Fort Wayne, Ind., to ice skate most Saturdays.
Once they started getting more competitive with the sport, Seybold and his sister had to choose between roller-skating and ice-skating because of financial and time constraints. They decided to stick with ice-skating, and Seybold and his sister began taking private lessons and training for competitions with what little money his parents could set aside for training.
A young man ice-skating in the ‘80s, Seybold said he didn’t face many gender stereotypes because of his newfound passion.
“We kind of had success right from the beginning, so people kind of viewed it differently than maybe if I were 5, 6, 7, 8 years old figure skating when all the other kids were playing hockey,” he said. “By the time we switched over [to ice skating], I was 13, so we were already doing lifts and jumps.”
Each week, Seybold, his sister and their mother commuted up to 550 miles to practice.
“My mom would pick us up from school, and then we would drive to Fort Wayne or to Carmel, and we’d usually do our homework in the car,” Seybold said. “Afterwards, we’d go home and have dinner, and half an hour later it’d be time for bed. So that was our day.”
Going for Gold
The year before Seybold and his sister went to the Olympic Games, his parents ran out of money for skating purposes. His father was an insurance adjuster, and his mother, who was a stay-at-home mom until Seybold’s brother went to school, was now a teacher’s aid for special education. Seybold said that they had given up everything for their children to be able to skate, but the costs of training and traveling added up quickly. So the people of Marion came together and raised enough money to support the two skaters for the whole year so that they could fulfill their dream to skate at the Olympic Games.
The Marion high-school vice principal at the time organized much of the fundraising efforts, along with several other Marion residents. They placed fish tanks in classrooms and containers in restaurants to collect donations, firemen went door-to-door selling patches, and volunteers made crafts and sold them. Seybold and his sister were in Delaware training at the time, so they didn’t know much about the fundraising until the town invited the skaters to a high-school basketball game, where they presented Seybold and his sister with a check. Seybold said about 7,500 people came to the game, and many of them had signs that said, “We love Kim and Wayne” and “Good luck Kim and Wayne.”
“It was this huge community-wide effort that took place and ended up being a very successful situation,” Seybold said. “It was a pretty humbling experience to see all that stuff going on in the community.”
In 1982, Seybold and his sister made it to the Junior World Team, and three years later, they moved to Delaware to train full time with Ron Ludington, who coaches at the University of Delaware. Then in 1988, they made it to the Winter Olympic Games on the American pair skating team.
“It just seemed like this unattainable goal,” Seybold said. “There’s not even an ice rink in Marion, and we went to the Olympics in ice skating. That’s a blessed event, as far as I’m concerned.”
Before they knew it, Seybold and his sister had made it to Calgary, Canada, for the games. They competed on days two and three of the 16-day Olympic event, so Seybold and his sister had the rest of the time to be “tourists with a backstage pass.”
“At the Olympic Village, we went through all the opening ceremonies, and that was very cool,” Seybold said. “It just made the hair on your arms stand up. Then the next day, it was time to compete, and it was like any other competition. Here were are at the rink, and we’ve got a job to do.”
Seybold and his sister’s performance was Western-themed, as they wore spandex with tassels and skated to the classic “hoedown” song, “Cowboy Shoot ‘Em Up.” One of the judges commented, “Their selection of music is very fitting for Calgary.”
“I don’t think I’ve seen this much excitement in their skating in a long time,” another judge said. “They really seem to be on top of it.” Seybold and his sister both maintained smiles on their faces through the entirety of their energetic performance. At the end, the same judge commented, “Well, Marion, Ind., you have invested your money well. The people are plenty proud today.” Seybold and his sister won 10th place at the 1988 Winter Games.
Getting into politics
After the Olympic Games, they both kept skating. Seybold produced ice shows in Los Angeles that toured around the world, and his sister, now Kim Catron, began coaching. Seybold said that he knew he didn’t want to raise a family in L.A., though, so Seybold and Catron both decided to move back to Indiana.
“So many athletes get so engrossed in what they’re doing with the athletics that they forget there’s got to be another part of your life,” Seybold said. “Our parents always said, ‘Someday you’re not going to skate, and you need to prepare for that time in your life.’”
So when he moved back to Marion, Seybold knew he had to figure out his next step.
“I got back and thought, ‘Wow I want to give some of this knowledge that I’ve gained through traveling and things I’ve seen around other parts of the world to Marion,’” Seybold said. “So I went to the mayor’s office and asked to sit on a couple of boards: the park board and the Main Street Marion board. And then one day [the mayor] called me and said, ‘We’d like you to run for City Council.’”
Before he knew it, Seybold was on the City Council and was considering running for mayor as a Republican candidate.
“When people started talking to him about the possibility of running for mayor, I don’t think he thought he could do it,” said his sister. “But then we he thought about everything that Marion had given him and everything Grant County had given him, I think he said, ‘OK, Well maybe if I win, that’s my way of giving back and trying to make the community a better place.’”
So over eight years ago, Seybold ran and was elected as mayor of Marion.
“I was probably more shocked than anybody when he said he was going to go into politics,” his sister said. “I was thinking, ‘What does he know about politics?’ But over the past eight years, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well he’s done. I really think he’s found his niche in life with politics.”
Now in third term as Marion major, Seybold has established quite a few relationships—both political and personal.
“He’s an extremely outgoing individual,” said Grant Country Republican Party Chairman Jerry Shull. “He cares a great deal about community, family and character. I’ve learned to like him as an individual and respect him a great deal. That relationship has totally evolved from the political arena.”
In the political realm, Seybold is known for strong economic development in Grant County, according to Marion’s chief of staff, Jonathan Perez.
“Usually mayors are strictly focused on their own city, but Wayne’s seen that if he can help put a company in a town four miles away that with the trickle effect, there will be spill-over to help Marion too,” Perez said.
Seybold is also known for his busy agenda.
“If he wasn’t doing this, he’d be doing a million other things,” Perez said. “So he is essentially on the go 24/7. I don’t know how he does it. I’m half his age, and I can’t do it.”
Although skating and politics seemingly have nothing in common, Seybold said his skating career prepared him for his life in politics.
“There was so much that we learned,” Seybold said. “So many life lessons: how to travel, how to talk to people that might be in very high positions. We met President Reagan and Nancy Reagan and ambassadors … All of it has transferred to this job.”
Seybold also attributes his work ethic to his skating experiences and his parents.
“[My sister and I] didn’t come from a family that had a lot of wealth, so we had to work to help pay for our living expenses when we were in Delaware and some of our skating,” Seybold said. “But I think that kept us well-rounded, and it helped us to really understand that skating wasn’t everything. At some point, skating is going to end, and you have to have another plan. So if we were to do it all over again, I think we’d do it exactly the same way.”
In addition to his mayoral responsibilities, Seybold is also a business owner. Ice Rinks 2 Go, which started as Seybold Skating, provides portable ice rinks in areas that don’t have them, like Marion. He is also planning to go back to Indiana Wesleyan University to finish a degree in marketing.
Seybold and his wife, Jennifer, have three sons, who all skate. He even joins them on the ice every now and then.
“People ask, ‘Can you do a triple sow cow?’” Seybold said. “‘Yeah, one time, but call the ambulance because I’m probably not going to get up.’”
Continuing in the spotlight, Seybold’s career doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
“Whether he’s the mayor of Marion or a congressman from Indiana or working at his ice rinks, I’m not sure which one his future holds,” his sister said. “But at this point, we all hope it’s the Congressman.”
Seybold said he knows one day his political career will end too, though, and just like in the past, he’s already planning ahead with his business.
“I’ve always kind of lived my life in four-year increments,” Seybold said. “You either made the Olympic team or you didn’t, and then you have to try for four more years. And now I’m involved in politics, and it’s four years, and you try in another four years. So there hasn’t seemed to be a lot of longevity there, although we’ve been able to take those four years and make a pretty good career out of it.”
Emily Thompson is a senior magazine-journalism major at Ball State University covering features for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at @ekthomposon2410, @bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.
Watch the audio slideshow of From Olympian to Mayor.