After 22 Years, Suedkamp Decided Not to Run Again for Erlanger Council
For more than four decades, Patty Suedkamp has been part of the Erlanger community, spending about half the time she's lived in the city as an elected official.
But after twenty-two years as a council member, Suedkamp made the decision not to seek another term in the 2020 elections.
"Last time I wanted to quit, but people talked me into running again," she said. "I will be 75 in July. I love this city! But I don't want to overstay. It's just time."
She points out that nineteen of her twenty-two years on council were spent as vice mayor, a position granted to the council member who received the most votes in the general election.
Her involvement in the city that she's lived in for 45 years began as a babysitter.
When her father had bypass surgery at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, she decided that she needed to know CPR, so she became familiar with the team at the Erlanger Fire Department.
She started babysitting for some of them.
Then she trained and became an EMT and joined the department.
Suedkamp remembers some of the calls during her time with the department, including aiding in the birth of three children, and the first time she had to help resuscitate someone.
"His name was Johnny Bell," she said. "A few of us were eating at the old Colonial Cottage, and our pagers all went off at the same time. We went down to Thornton's gas station and Bell was the attendant. He only had one arm, but we didn't know that. As he was having an attack, he fell and cut the stump of his arm on the cigarette machine. We kept looking around, thinking he had cut his arm off. But we pulled him out to a flat surface, and (another EMT) Julie Harris started compressions, but every time she compressed his chest, he puked in my mouth, because I was doing to mouth to mouth."
She shook her head, remembering.
"The ambulance finally got there, and they transported him to the hospital. He recovered and walked his daughter down the aisle to get married three weeks later."
She went on to become a training captain and the first fire department secretary, a position she also held at the CVG Airport Fire Department. She was the first woman dispatcher at the airport, she said.
In 1998, she looked to serve the community in a new way, and ran for city council for the first time.
Her husband, Bruce, was unsure about why she would want to run for a mostly volunteer position.
"He didn't understand volunteering," Suedkamp said. "You don't run for council to make money. If you think that, you are in the wrong business."
The business that she and Bruce were in was a chain of Video America stores as they raised their kids, Jason, Erik, and Jamie.
She quickly earned a reputation on council as someone who would openly speak her mind.
"What are they going to do, shoot me?," she said.
During a police training simulation in which council members participated, Suedkamp was handed a gun to shoot. Her first shot struck a "bad guy" right in the groin.
Respect for Suedkamp grew after that episode.
In the decades since her first election, Suedkamp cites her chairing the Renaissance Committee, which brought Erlanger and Elsmere together to beautify Dixie Highway, as a highlight. She is also proud of the veterans memorial.
She said that she has enjoyed her time on council and listening to the opinions of twelve council members and a mayor.
"We respect one another, and that's the key," she said. "If you don't give any respect, you don't get any respect. Most of us are focused as a group. At least ten of the twelve jell at any given time."
And in the meantime, ahead of her departure from council after this year, there is still work to be done.
One thing Suedkamp would like to see started is a destination in Erlanger that brings visitors to the city. She said that she would like to see a nice sit-down restaurant, not more warehouses.
"I believe in growth," she said, "but it should be careful. People want to put a mini mall at the corner of Turkeyfoot and Stevenson. You don't have to fill up every single space. I am big on green space."
"My passion is a community center," Suedkamp said. "I have wanted that for ten or more years. My dream was to have it located on Hulbert by the library, but I have looked at other properties. The Marcus Carey property is still available on Dixie Highway. I want Erlanger to have a community center, and I would love for it to be called 'Friendship Gardens'."
Until then, the center of Suedkamp's world is her grandchildren, with whom she plans to spend more time.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor