Janesville community reacts to Speaker Paul Ryan's announcement - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Janesville community reacts to Speaker Paul Ryan's announcement to not seek re-election

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Paul Ryan/AP photo Paul Ryan/AP photo

JANESVILLE (WKOW) - People in House Speaker Paul Ryan's hometown of Janesville agree his decision to leave Congress changes the view of the city.

"He has put the city on the map," restauranteur Edmund Halabi says.

Ryan has been a customer of Halabi's Italian House since Ryan's teenage years.

Halabi says he's watched as Ryan gained prominence in Congress, completed Republican Mitt Romney's presidential ticket as his running mate, and ascended to Speaker of the House.

"He's a man with love to serve his country, his background in economics, a strong value, good Christian...he has made us proud," Halabi says as he points to a signed photograph of Ryan and Halabi shaking hands in the restaurant dining room.

Italian House is walking distance from Ryan's alma mater, Janesville Craig High School. Ryan graduated in 1988 after dabbling in student government. The school's "Honor Wall" includes Ryan as well as another notable Wisconsite in government, former democratic U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. Janesville Craig's student body includes Ryan's oldest child.

It also includes senior Maria Mendoza, who joined with other youth activists last month to challenge Ryan for his alleged lack of action to address gun violence in the wake of the February Florida school mass shooting. Mendoza addressed a crowd of two hundred in a Janesville park after young people from across the state completed a fifty mile march to raise.more awareness of the gun issue.

Mendoza says Ryan's coming departure should help the cause.

"One small step," Mendoza says. "We have one less person that we as youth have to worry about. Hopefully that means we're going to have one more person out there who is going to take into consideration what we want and our lives and not just worry about money from the NRA (National Rifle Association)," Mendoza says.

But Mendoza says she accepts Ryan's rationale for bowing out of Congress as his concern over his time with his teenage children. She says Ryan's career is a point of pride for her school.

Halabi says both prominent republicans democrats have frequented his restaurant over the years. He says Ryan deserves credit for his tenure.

"I want to say to Paul Ryan, 'Thank you for your service to our country for twenty years,'" Halabi says.

Janesville Craig's 1988 yearbook includes a remarkably recognizable Ryan on the cover with a throng of other students. As Ryan prepares to transition from the glare of attention attached to a house speaker and the fish bowl atmosphere of Washington, D.C., he may contrast his future with the inscription on that yearbook cover: "Standing Room Only."

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