State Senator - District 12 Candidate: John Schultz, DFLRunning for State Senator - District 12
Q: Please list your background and specific qualifications for this position.
A: After a normal, small-town childhood in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, I came to Minnesota as a young adult to attend Carleton College in Northfield.
Upon graduating from Carleton, where I majored in economics, I worked for nearly 10 years in New York City. First at the Irving Trust Company, a very large commercial bank, and then at Lehman Brothers, which at the time was the largest investment bank in the nation.
While in New York, I studied at the NYU night school for a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in banking and finance. At the same time, I was a music theory student in the evening program at The Juilliard School. I had a lot of energy then; still do.
But agriculture got the best of me. I left New York in 1973 and bought a large (for that time) farm in Big Stone County. I raised registered Polled Herefords and some of the less-common grain crops: barley, durum and sunflowers. And I did pretty well. My cattle won in the show ring, at the test stations, and in the sale barn. My crops were good, too, except for the complete drought of 1976.
In 1979, I was named Minnesota Conservation Farmer of the Year. I paid my bills and made progress until 1980, which brought us Ronald Reagan and Paul Volcker.
Like all beginning farmers, especially those starting from scratch (which could actually be done in those days), I carried significant debt. So when interest rates skyrocketed and grain and cattle prices fell, I was in trouble.
Eventually, I sold most of my land and paid all my debts. But I was able to keep a few acres and a building site. Unwilling to quit entirely, I still run a few cattle in the summer and keep a few chickens, both broilers and layers.
After farming for almost 20 years, I became a registered investment advisor in a small firm I started called Ethical Investments. We counseled individuals and foundations on socially responsible investing. Our clients earned good returns on investments concentrated with companies that were also good corporate citizens.
More recently, I’ve focused on helping good non-profit organizations refine their messages and raise the funds necessary to accomplish their goals. I’m pretty skilled in speaking and writing clearly and know that when people understand the message, they are much more likely to support the organization. I’ve worked with the Minnesota Land Trust, Southside Family School, Carleton College, and, most recently, the Center for Victims of Torture.
Perhaps more importantly, this work allows me to live full time on the farm again, which I’ve done for the past 10-plus years.
Even to a casual observer, it’s obvious that Minnesota is suffering a crisis of leadership. In my view, I can help solve that. I have extensive experience in agriculture (the economic engine of SD12) and a wealth of education and involvement in the business community. I have a broad background of experience and the skills that can help reverse our current backward direction.
Q: The public is tired of the partisan politics that often bog down the work of the Legislature. Specifically, how will you work with legislators from the other political party to get things done?
A: Successful political action is not about pushing a personal agenda, regardless of the nature of the legislative body or needs of the constituents. It’s about the act of compromise. It’s about working with others to develop the ideas that best serve, not just the legislator’s constituency, but the entire state of Minnesota.
Last year, the Republican majority decided to shut down the state government rather than compromise in any way. In my view, that’s not the way competent legislators operate and, if elected, I will not follow such a path.
Q: Many people saw significant increases in property taxes this year. If elected, what will you do to lower the property taxes for average/middle class home owners?
A: Property taxes have increased as state aid to our area has decreased.
There are two ways to reset the state’s ability to support our area: increased revenues and decreased expenditures. As the economy improves, tax revenues to the state will increase.
The state tax code can be reworked at the highest income levels to make it fairer, also increasing revenues. Governor Dayton has already begun, and I support the continuation of a more streamlined structure for state administrative agencies, decreasing expenditures.
While some candidates have claimed there is wide-spread waste in state government, none of them has produced a list of such wasteful areas or offered concrete suggestions for improvement.
Q: Is the state taking the right approach to battling aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels? What more can be done?
A: Fighting invasive species is a very difficult task. The more aggressive the actions taken, the more disruption occurs in all related systems. Striking a balance between the types of action under consideration requires the professional advice of knowledgeable people, along with the informed input of our citizens. That balance must always consider the potential for failure and the possibility these species may become established, or, indeed, prominent, in our area. The consequences of such a scenario should temper the discussion. How much can we afford to lose economically if we lose the biological battle? Since I am not a biologist, I would depend upon, but not acquiesce to, professional counsel.
Q: What priority will you give to energy efficiency and renewable energies? What energy future do you envision for upcoming generations in Minnesota?
A: “Priority” suggests a numerical rating system, which, in my view, is neither truly reflective nor rigidly applicable in legislative action. There is no question that we must address energy considerations in our state. We would like to diminish actions disruptive to our economic situation while acknowledging that the time for action is right now.
Every alternative energy source needs to be examined in this light. How does it help? Is it sustainable? Is it economically feasible? Could it become feasible under different circumstances? Conservation efforts should get closer attention than they currently warrant.