Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour Is All About Community
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Amy Payne
It’s in some people’s nature to walk into a room and pick apart what’s wrong with what they see. That is not, however, who Mayor Dan Ridenour is.
“I’m a glass-is-half-full type of person,” he says. “When you look at Muncie, there are so many good things here.”
For starters, Muncie has a major university, a total of 32 parks, and a river that runs through the city and across downtown.
“Everything you need is here or within 10 minutes of here,” Ridenour says.
Muncie has the Cardinal Greenway, the longest rail trail in the state, which runs 62 miles and is connected to several neighborhoods. The city is also home to Prairie Creek Reservoir Park, which Ridenour believes is the second-largest city park in the country, behind New York City’s Central Park.
“It’s a real gem for us as it has campsites, fishing, horseback riding, a beach, and all kinds of trails for ATVs, walking and hiking,” Ridenour says.
It’s part of what makes Muncie a prized destination for triathlons, including the Ironman event, which took place this month. Ridenour participated in the Muncie Ironman as part of a relay. He undertook the running leg. Craig Wright, his controller, did the bicycle portion, and Dustin Clark, who runs Prairie Creek Reservoir, did the swimming section.
Ridenour, who has worked in banking for most of his adult life, was a member of the Muncie City Council when he decided to run for mayor.
“My main plan was to increase transparency,” Ridenour says. He started a monthly event called “Dream with Dan,” for which he invited the public to hear him speak about different topics before taking questions. When he became mayor in January of 2020, “Dream with Dan” evolved to include different department heads who share some aspect of how they help the city. For instance, he has invited the police chief, animal control officer and city engineer to join him.
“It’s an opportunity for the public to get to know who runs the various departments, and what they do,” Ridenour says.
One challenge Ridenour faced when he first stepped into his role as mayor involved financial issues. While no funds were missing, a lot of funds were placed in areas that didn’t make sense.
“There were 18 different accounts that were negative $3.3 million, and we sorted all that out,” Ridenour says. “We have a better system in place now.”
Another increase in transparency involved making sure that all of the council documents are available online to the public on the same day that they are made available to the council members. With the help of City Clerk Belinda Munson, Ridenour’s administration was also able to get all of the ordinances and city codes online.
“In the past it wasn’t always easy to understand what was on the council agenda, let alone have a copy of the ordinance or resolution,” Ridenour says. “Having those accessible helps increase the public’s trust in what we’re doing as a city.”
Ridenour, who has served on countless boards through the years including the United Way, Cardinal Greenways and Rotary Club, supports several nonprofit organizations. One of them is Home Savers of Delaware County, which does home repairs for seniors who can’t, for instance, replace a furnace, build a ramp or fix a roof.
“I’m not a great construction worker but I try to help,” Ridenour says. “At my age, my main focus is on making a lasting impact for our community.”
This explains why he rappelled off of Ball State’s seven-story architecture building in August. It was a fundraiser for Family Alliance, which helps single-parent households.
When Ridenour became mayor, he had two primary focuses to improve the city. One was upgrading the parks. To date, splash pads at two neighborhood parks have been added, with two more splash pads under construction. In addition, they have nine other parks that have been upgraded.
His other major focus was housing. “I wanted affordable housing, middle-income housing and upper-end housing,” Ridenour says. “As a community, we have to have all three to excel.”
The City of Muncie tore down dilapidated homes, and in September construction began on 70 single-family units of affordable workforce housing, putting those lots back into play. The plan is to not only generate tax revenue for the school system, but also improve neighborhoods that at one time had poorly maintained homes. In addition, a new 60-unit apartment community is going up on the southeast side. Plus, a new subdivision is being built on the northwest side of town where an old elementary school once stood. It will provide middle-income housing.
“We have a new 55-unit apartment building that opened downtown along the river, and we found that between 65 and 70% of people who moved into those apartments were already working in Muncie and had previously commuted,” Ridenour says.
Between Ball State, IU Health and the industrial park just south of city limits, Muncie has lots of great jobs to offer, and more manufacturers, plant relocation, and retailers are on the way. New housing will make it possible for workers to live in the city instead of commuting.
“A lot of new jobs and other developments are coming through our area,” Ridenour says. “There’s a lot of momentum and we’re working to make sure that momentum continues.”
Fun Facts About Mayor Dan
- He spent three years with IndyCar teams. “I was on a pit crew,” he says. “I was involved in a couple different teams including Robby McGehee, the 1999 Rookie of the Year at the Indy 500. I was also on the Kelley Racing team, which had Mark Dismore, Scott Sharp and Al Unser Jr. My job was primarily to make sure the sponsors were happy.”
- He’s written three books, all about credit. His last book, “Financial Folly: Why Seven Smart Financial Decisions Will Lower Your Credit Score,” is available on Amazon. “I’m not a fan of the credit-score system,” he says. “I don’t feel it’s a true representation of people’s worth and yet the credit score determines so many things.”
- He’s a sports fanatic, and a 41-year Indiana Pacers season ticket holder. He fondly recalls “all the Reggie Miller years, and all those in and around Reggie!”