Eric Leutheuser thought he was well-known. As the owner of the Hillsdale’s Buick GMC car dealership for three decades, he spent thousands of dollars advertising his name. But when he decided to run for state representative in Michigan’s 58th district in the 2014 elections, he quickly found out that the people of Branch County, a mere 15-minute drive away, had not heard of him.
Now, four years later, the people of Branch and Hillsdale Counties certainly know him. On Nov. 6, they re-elected him for his third and final term. In the deep red territory of Michigan, Leutheuser won 71 percent of the vote.
Leutheuser grew up in Hillsdale and his father owned the Buick GMC dealership. After finishing his education in Hillsdale’s public schools, Leutheuser decided to go away to college. He spent two years at Central Michigan University. But his interest in politics brought him back to Hillsdale College since it was one of the few schools in the 1980s to have an opportunity like the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program.
“I enjoyed WHIP so well that I decided to take a semester off and work on a political campaign,’ Leutheuser said.
He worked for the campaign of David Stockman, a Michigan congressman. Stockman was re-elected but went to work as President Reagan’s budget director.
“So about 72 hours after we got him re-elected he went to the White House,” Leutheuser said.
Though Leutheuser enjoyed politics, after graduating from Hillsdale College in 1982 with a degree in political economy, he went to work for his father at the dealership and eventually took over the business. He was still interested in politics but decided it was best to make a living and raise a family first.
“In between then and now there was a 30-year hiatus where I decided to make a living and raise a family because politics is a harsh way to make a living and a harsh way to raise a family,” he said.
After his kids were out of the house, Leutheuser decided to get involved in politics again. He ran for state representative of Michigan’s district 58, which is composed of Hillsdale and Branch County.
His work at the car dealership prepared him for the task ahead.
“I got 30 years’ practice listening,” Leutheuser said.
But once he was in office, Leutheuser had a hard time juggling his job at the dealership and his responsibilities in Lansing.
“Even at this low-level, it’s pretty quirky. You are away from the house a lot and so it’s got to be right for your family,” Leutheuser said. “In 2016 I actually sold the store because I couldn’t do both jobs well enough. So I have been a state rep full-time ever since.”
Now that he is in his third and final term, he looked back on the course of his time as a representative and how the term limits have dictated his work.
“Everything is so accelerated because of the term limits,” he said.
In the first two-year term, his colleagues were trying to evaluate him. In his second term, Leutheuser had more experience and became a leader in committees and strategic planning.
“By the third term you’ve got all that but suddenly people are looking at who is coming behind you. It’s kind of like your shelf life is so short,” Leutheuser said.
During his time in office, Leutheuser has worked on various bills including ones related to domestic-abuse shelters, auto-insurance reforms, and religious freedom for faith-based foster care and adoption agencies.
Now that Leutheuser is in his last term, he is looking to the future and what he will do once his last years as representative are over.
Leutheuser said, “The only answer that is possible is that I don’t know for sure but I am staying open to going on to the Senate. But that is four years from now. So then I’ll have two years and I’m not going to twiddle my thumbs.”