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Ryan says in his business 'perfect is close enough'

Greg Ryan stands by his record — of treating people with respect.

At his St. Paul plumbing company, the U.S. Congressional District 4 candidate from Roseville has employed hundreds of people. To run a business, an employer must understand people, provide a good service at a reasonable price, and not deliver anything except excellence, Ryan said. "Perfect is close enough."

In his employees, he's looking for desire, passion, a willingness to learn and honesty. If they have positive traits, he's willing to "see what they're made of," Ryan said.

Ryan is accustomed to being on call 24 hours a day — in plumbing and at home, Ryan said over dinner at The Mermaid in Mounds View.

Fatherhood "is the best thing to me," providing his proudest moments, Ryan said, and with his son, his mantra is "I bleed my blood for you." His daughter, Olivia, nodded with a laugh.

Ryan's priorities are clear: his children and his business.

"I have two passions, and there's going to be three when I get elected," he said.

His training for elected office comes on the job, from his occupation and his adult son and daughter, both of which demand his time and expertise, Ryan said.

There's a right way to do customer service, and he can't help being honest.

"If the truth hurts, you can close your ears," Ryan said.

He plans to, if elected, vote his conscience.

To say he's down to earth is an understatement.

"I'm a plumber, so wearing a suit and tie isn't my thing," Ryan said.

He's a motorcyclist and a hockey fan and former player who does not like to lose.

"There's some scars. I lost one tooth. I didn't back down from good competition," Ryan said.

His family ties have motivated him to run for office. Ryan grew up in St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood, where the business has been located since his grandfather, a legislator for four terms, started it in 1951. His great-grandfather was involved in the construction of the State Capitol as a plumber and went on to serve as a state representative in 1919-20.

Growing up fast

Feb. 15, 1984, is the day Ryan grew up fast. His father, working during the day at Ryan Plumbing Co., was robbed of $15 at gunpoint and murdered.

"That's when I went from employee to employer overnight," Ryan said.

He was working for another mechanical contractor when he got a call to go to the office. There, a homicide detective asked him how many sisters he had — "he was checking who I was," Ryan said — then broke to him the news of his father's death.

Shaken, he immediately began to deal with the plumbing business. Calls didn't stop coming in.

He quit drinking. He has put two DWIs far behind him and is 32 years sober.

Ryan, a master plumber, has engineering training, electrical and refrigeration courses and high pressure steam license under his belt. He has been installing boilers since he was in high school, a realization of his childhood dream to work for his dad, Dennis.

Ryan's father was an ex-Marine, not a drill sergeant but a strict disciplinarian who led a structured life.

As a young person, Ryan rebelled, he said, but "a natural leader was formed and tailored, and that's what my dad did for me."

Ryan is striving to be a better person, he said, and blessed to have a family without divisions. His three brothers are behind him, one of them running the business while he campaigns.

The tools to succeed and his children were gifts from God, said Ryan, although he doesn't consider himself particularly religious.

"God gave me another day," Ryan said. "Watching my mom die of cancer and my dad get gunned down, every day is really, really important to me. Life — there's no guarantees."