Germany′s oldest mayor retires after 56 years in office | News | DW | 21.05.2019
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Germany's oldest mayor retires after 56 years in office

The end of an era is nigh as a 94-year-old mayor prepares to hand over to his successor. Josef Rüddel has presided over the German village of Windhagen for more than 50 years.

After serving 56 years as Mayor of Windhagen, Josef Rüddel announced he will step down. The German village south of Bonn will be seeking a new incumbent as of next week.

The 94-year-old, however, has one more task to complete — supervising Sunday's municipal elections. He has decided not to stand again after running the village, which has 4,200 inhabitants, from his front room over the last five and a half decades.

He remembers clearly how many elections he has presided over, less so the number of counterparts he has seen off. "I went through 14 elections, always with opposing candidates but I've lost count of how many," he said.

"He is very probably Germany's oldest and longest-serving mayor," the German municipalities association said in Berlin.

A life in Windhagen

Rüddel was born on January 20, 1925 in Hallerbach, a five minute drive from Windhagen.

He served as a soldier during World War II, during which he was wounded and taken captive while retreating from Poland.

In 1955 Rüddel was elected to the council of Windhagen at the tender age of 30 and became mayor eight years later, succeeding Josef Heuser who had died a couple of months before. John F. Kennedy was president of the United States and Donald Trump was still a teenager.

"At the time there were two or three cars in Windhagen. I got about with a horse and cart," the Christian Democrat explained.

Rüddel has three sons, one of whom, Erwin Josef Rüddel, is a member of the German Bundestag as a member of Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

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