I remember meeting Sen. Dale Schultz after his first year in the senate more than 20 years ago. He came in to the newspaper office and carried with him a notebook that had in it detail of every legislative decision he had voted on and he could speak to each specific issue as if it was his own. I was surprised that for a new senator it was such a long list and that he had such a strong handle on so many of the state’s issues.
He never lost that handle of knowing what he stood for and why he supported what he did. He proved to be very good with the talking points at that time and that self-absorption with his job served him well the next two decades. What served him even more during his years leading the 17th District was his willingness to meet with his constituents and not be guided entirely by his political party interests. He was not an ivory tower legislator and he was not a special interest politician.
I once asked Dale why no one running for state and national political positions other than him runs advertisements in local newspapers when so many people read the local paper. He said that all of them have marketing consultants who tell them where to spend their money. They had no choice, he said. Thankfully, Dale beat to a different drummer.
There have been many local parades logged, some years with a lot of politicians who were battling for the 49th Assembly or the Sheriff’s office, some years with very few other than Dale. I’d see him at a parade and he’d always come over, shake my hand, and I’d say why are you here, this is not in an election year for you. It didn’t matter to him, he just believed that was important to him to meet with the masses even when many in the district might not have liked how he had voted on a particular issue.
Gov. Tommy Thompson’s state imposed revenue caps for school districts supported by Dale put him squarely in the cross hairs of educators, who would become animated and agitated at the mere mention of his name in the mid-1990s. Not sure how many people in his district realized he was married to an educator.
So it’s ironic how 20 years later during Gov. Walker’s determined fight to end the state teaching union, which drew national attention, Dale stood against his party and became a friend of teachers at the same time he became an outcast to his party.
It’s understandable that a new regime wants good soldiers and Dale’s unwillingness to play the game on behalf of his new CEO made him a target in his own party. That happens all the time with leadership transitions, whether it is in business or in politics or in big time sports, and I believe Dale understood what his decision would do his political future. I was not surprised when he announced last Sunday night that he would not seek reelection to the senate.
It’s unfortunate that at a time when people are fed up with partisan politics and are clamoring for bipartisanship to move this country forward that a person like Dale is just a curmudgeon who was not in touch with his own party and a loose cannon who could not be counted on in the clutch because he wasn’t partisan enough.
While not everyone in the district agreed with Dale’s positions over the years, he was applauded by many locally for his willingness to reach across the aisle, not play politics on every decision, and listen at the same time he so strongly voiced his own opinions.