Republican Representative for Ohio’s 68th House District Margaret Ann Ruhl has reached her term limits of eight years. On Jan. 1, Genoa Township Trustee Rick Carfagna will take over Ruhl’s seat in the Ohio House of Representatives.
During a recent interview, Ruhl spoke about her background and her experiences serving her 68th House District constituents.
Ruhl, a lifelong Knox County resident, was raised on a 120-acre farm and graduated from Fredricktown High School. She pursued a career in business and accounting and before her election to the Ohio House of Representatives, Ruhl served as Knox County Auditor since 1995 and as auditor for the City of Mount Vernon from 1983 through 1995.
Ruhl saw a major change in her constituency after election to the house in 2008. Ruhl was originally elected to serve as the 90th House District Representative, but in 2013 the ground shifted under her feet.
“Since I was first elected to the House of Representatives my district changed,” Ruhl said. “Before the change I was a representative for four counties – Knox and Morrow counties and parts of Richland and Ashland counties. That was a challenge.”
Asked what her experiences were in 2008 when she was a freshman representative, Ruhl said she was not only the new kid on the block, when she first went to the Ohio House of Representatives she was in the minority – Democrats ruled the house in 2008.
“The first bill I worked on was the Livestock Care Bill,” Ruhl said. “Health and Human Services was pushing hard for regulations like they have in California, and I felt good that they chose me, being a newbie.”
Ruhl said she came into the Ohio House when Democrat Armond Budish was Speaker of the House.
“Budish and I didn’t agree with the direction of a lot of legislation,” Ruhl said. “With the following speaker, William Batchelder, we were in the majority and legislation was then geared towards getting the economy going. Today’s speaker, Cliff Roseberger, is more focused on the economy, education, military, and agriculture.”
Ruhl said once she was up to speed, her favorite part of serving as a State Representative was being able to help her constituents.
“I enjoyed talking with my constituents and helping individuals work through the system,” Ruhl said. “But it’s been that way with all of my jobs — helping people understand how things work. When I went into the house, I didn’t set goals. My main reason for going was to enhance what we have. Now that it’s over, I feel I’ve served my constituents and the State of Ohio to the best of my ability.”
Asked about how she will hand the 68th House District over to Carfagna, Ruhl said the legislative process is designed for smooth transitions. She called it Sign or Die – any legislation on the agenda at the end of the year is signed into law or allowed to die on the table.
“There will be no hand-off, and Rick has an advantage over what I had when I started,” Ruhl said. “He’s worked as a legislative aide and been politically active. He already has many of the contacts he’ll need to get up to speed. My first year I was inexperienced and inundated with lobbyists. It was a bit overwhelming when you didn’t know who they were or what they wanted.”
Ruhl said for the moment she is retiring.
“My faith got me into this job, and I know God has a plan for me, but I don’t know what that plan is right now,” Ruhl said. “I know I won’t stay retired for long, but after 33 years as an elected official, I’m going to sit back and enjoy life for a while.”
Asked about what challenges she sees ahead for the State of Ohio and Ohio’s 68th House District, Ruhl’s thoughts returned to her rural roots.
“We’re going to have to take a hard look at preserving our agriculture,” Ruhl said. “We need to stand up for our farmers and help them do what they have to do in any way that we can. With a rural constituency, that will be one of Rick’s challenges, keeping our land clean and safe.
Ruhl retires from the Ohio House of Representatives as a member of the Agricultural and Rural Development Committee, a member of the House Finance Committee, a member of the Local Government Committee, and a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.