Cedarburg Alum Spotlight

Cedarburg Alum Continues Lifelong Learning, Even Upon Retirement

One Cedarburg High School alumnus is celebrating a decorated and colorful career of national service. John Mitchel graduated with the class of 1965 and spent more than two decades in the U.S. Air Force before serving as a private contractor supporting the Department of Defense.

Mitchel retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1992, and again in July 2017 from his private-sector consulting job. He says that his time as a Bulldog inspired him to reach for the skies.

But perhaps the thing that stands out the most for Mitchel, known as "Mitch" to classmates, was meeting his wife, Diane. The couple met in fifth-hour study hall during John's junior year at Cedarburg High School.

"Diane's the inspiration to me-and to a whole lot of other people," John says.

Career in service

After graduation, Mitch studied at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The following year, he received an appointment to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

"When I got there, I developed a big interest in flying," he says. "I ended up going to pilot training and flew operationally for 12 years as an instructor pilot in three different types of aircraft."

Mitch reached the ranking of Command Pilot during his time in the Air Force.  

Starting in the 1990s, he pursued work in the private sector. Even though he was no longer serving in the military, Mitch continued to dedicate himself to making the country a better place. He made bids for both Congress and Ohio governor as a third-party candidate.

In 2002, Mitch again began working as a private defense contractor for the Air Force following a 10-year break from the military.   

"I worked for 15 years in that job," he l says. "I've been working for the Air Force for a total of 37 years."

A lifelong learner

Mitch benefited from a lifelong love of learning instilled in him during his years as a Bulldog. He also holds advanced degrees in business administration from Michigan Technological University and economics from Wright State University.

"I pulled alert while I was flying KC-135s. There's nothing better to do while on alert than to study the operators' manuals for your aircraft and get a master's degree, and so I did that," Mitch says. "I also had some GI Bill benefits left after I retired, so I used that to obtain a degree in economics."

He self-published a book in 2006 titled, "America at the Abyss: A View from the Heartland," documented fraud, waste, abuse and corruption in Ohio politics.

Mitch's love of math and economics allowed him to briefly work both as an adjunct instructor and a stockbroker. It also gave him insights into business cycles in the U.S. economy-something he continues to study to this day.

The next chapter

Even in retirement, Mitch remains politically active. He is considering a run in the 2018 midterm elections for Congress.

Mitch's interest in politics dates back to his days studying at Cedarburg High School, when he served as the vice president of student council. He continues to operate a blog aimed at rooting out corruption in local and state government.

Mitch says he appreciates the opportunities to reconnect with old classmates presented by Cedarburg High School's Golden Bulldogs, a group of alumni dating back 50 years.

"It really sets the high-water mark for any alumni program, anywhere," he says.

Mitch adds that both he and his wife attended their respective 50th class reunions.

Attending Cedarburg High School gave Mitch the tools he needed to succeed in both civilian and military life.

"Looking back, it was a great high school experience, due in large part to the dedicated teachers and coaches-not to mention classmates and friends-who made it a joy to go to CHS," he says. "It really prepared me for the [Air Force] Academy, as well as life in the real world."

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