“I grew up in Freeport, Illinois, home of the Lincoln-Douglas debate. I was the middle of seven children -- three boys and four girls in my family.”
Mayor Steve Luecke says life was good in the town of 25,000. His high school was small, and that gave him a lot of opportunities.
“In a small school, you get a chance to do a lot. I played football and basketball and track, was in a school play, and did well in studies.”
Luecke admits that, during his early days of schooling, he had never really thought about becoming a mayor.
He did eventually become involved in student government, though, and spent his first two years of college in South Bend at the University of Notre Dame.
But this small town cowboy decided to roam to the Big Apple. During that time, he made two big decisions.
“I went to New York, met Peg Carney -- who became my wife. I became a conscientious objector -- this was during the Vietnam War.”
At the same time, he had a brother who went to the US Naval Academy and eventually flew three tours of duty in Vietnam.
“Mike was supportive of my conscientious objector application. He advanced through the ranks; ultimately became a rear admiral.”
Like other conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War, the mayor would have to perform community service. He came back to South Bend, where he still had friends.
“Peg and I moved here for what we thought would be a couple of years, and obviously it grew on us.”
But the reason he returned to South Bend changed.
“Interestingly enough, once I came, the war ended, and so at that point I was relieved of my obligation to do community service.”
All of Steve and Peg's four children were born and raised in South Bend, and they now have a grandchild.
With a growing family, he became involved with the South Bend Heritage Foundation and neighborhood development, spent nine years on the city council, and told then-Mayor Joe Kernan that if he ever decided to step down, he would be interested.
Kernan ran for Lt. Governor, and 35 years after coming to South Bend, Steve is in his third term as mayor with no desire to seek higher office.
“I love the job and look forward to serving this community. Obviously I have a big job interview every four years, and about 100,000 bosses who have the chance to decide whether or not I’ll continue in that job.”
And in spite of the problems and controversy that come with the job...
“It really is a wonderful way to spend your day.”