To many Goshen College students, Mayor Jeremy Stutsman is a faraway figure from our boxed-in campus. Unwittingly, we often see pieces of him when we see the occasional hot air balloon sailing through the air.Since age 9, Jeremy Stutsman has been around and inside of hot air balloons. His parents Ann and Gene Stutsman, who are GC grads, run a hot air balloon tour business.
“The majority of the time I helped by being on the ground crew,” Stutsman said. “We would set up the balloon, follow and help with the landing and packing the balloon back up.”
He obtained his piloting license at 16 years old, along with his brother Dr. Chad Stutsman of Stutsman Dentistry. The mayor reports having logged about 100 flights in a hot air balloon.
Mayor Stutsman has helped with and flown in hot air balloons now for over 30 years, as the Stutsman ballooning business has grown. Ann and Gene also run and participate in many balloon events.
“We have… participated in the Albuquerque Balloon Festival,” Stutsman said. “This festival is the largest balloon festival in the world. And my mom and dad have run the balloon festival at the Elkhart County Fair for the last 34 years.”
Stutsman also mentioned how grateful he was to have shared this experience with his friends and family; he views it as a great opportunity to work hard and have fun with his brother, parents and friends.
It may not seem like skills from hot air ballooning are transferable to the job of mayor.
Mayor Stutsman disagrees, mentioning how important details are when preparing the balloon for take-off.
“You must make sure that the balloon is in good shape before every flight,” he said. “Everything has to be put together correctly, envelope inspections happen before every flight and it is important to watch the fuel closely.”
In-flight details are just as crucial.
“During a flight the pilot has to remain vigilant, watching for power lines, towers and the landscape ahead,” Stutsman said. “These are all features you have to be well aware of especially when it comes time to land the balloon.”
As a result of these experiences, Stutsman has become very attentive to detail.
One of the hobby’s main attractions is its community.
“I have met thousands of people that I would not normally [have] met being part of this activity,” Stutsman said. “It has definitely helped develop my ability to talk with people, take responsibility, and look ahead.”
The next time you see a hot air balloon flying above your head, think about the possibilities and “look ahead.”