Scott Schulte takes his seat on the Anoka County Board for the first time Tuesday after 12 years serving on the Coon Rapids City Council.
The lifelong Coon Rapids resident defeated 30-year incumbent Dan Erhart in the District 7 election Nov. 6 to represent a county commissioner district that includes the portion of Coon Rapids west of Hanson Boulevard, a large part of the city of Anoka and two precincts in western Andover.
Schulte, who owns and operates Hi-Ten Service Center in Coon Rapids, will be sworn in to office by Anoka County District Court Judge Tammi Fredrickson, who was Coon Rapids City Attorney before being named a judge.
According to Schulte, he had been thinking about running for the county board for several years before he announced his candidacy in June 2011.
“Timing is everything,” Schulte said.
He found that out in 2006 when he made an unsuccessful run as the Republican candidate for the Minnesota Senate seat then held by former DFL Sen. Leo Foley, he said.
In deciding to seek county office, Schulte said he was concerned about what he felt was lack of cooperation from county for the needs of the cities that make up District 7.
The campaign was time consuming because he realized that to win he would have to be visible in the district meeting people and door-knocking, according to Schulte.
“I am blessed with a very competent crew here at the shop who can do very well without me,” Schulte said.
Going into election day, Schulte said he was not confident of winning. “It was very, very close and I thought there would be a 3 percent spread either way,” he said.
Indeed, that was the final margin of victory as Schulte defeated Erhart by some 640 votes.
Since his election, Schulte has been preparing to join the board by attending county board meetings, workshops and orientation sessions as well as traveling to the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) annual conference in St. Cloud in early December.
“I am doing everything I can to make sure I am up to speed on county issues as well as continuing to fulfill my role on the council to the best of my ability,” Schulte said.
According to Schulte, the county deals with bigger policy issues as well as state and federal mandates, while the city handles quality of life issues that have a more direct affect on people like driveways, parking and trees.
His impression is that the county board is more politically driven than the city council and that bothers him a little bit, Schulte said.
“The best governance is done without political pressure,” he said.
One of the attributes he will bring to the board is that he has no agenda, Schulte said.
“I hope to bring a level of peace and civility to the board,” he said.
But he does have a couple of long-term projects on which he wants to focus, although neither are likely to bear fruit during his two-year term, Schulte said.
One is a new library for Coon Rapids as part of the future community center project on Coon Rapids Boulevard that would replace the existing facility on Crooked Lake Boulevard and the other is to create a parkway on Coon Rapids Boulevard similar to Highway 96 in Shoreview, Schulte said.
Schulte has made requests to Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah to be named to the board’s public works, public safety and waste management and energy committees as well as be county board liaison to the Anoka County Library Board, he said.
But he won’t know to what committees and positions he has been appointed until the board’s statutory organization meeting for 2013 at the first meeting of the year Jan. 8.
Although his father, Mel Schulte served on the Coon Rapids City Council representing Ward 1 in the early 1970s, then was on the Coon Creek Watershed Board for 15 years, his interest in politics and elective office did not emerge until the 1990s, according to Schulte.
That was when Ron Gageby, who worked at Hi-Ten Service Center at the time, was a member of the city council and Schulte started watching the meetings on cable TV, he said.
“I decided I would like to be part of that,” said Schulte, who was elected to the first of his three, four-year terms in the 2000 general election.
In addition, at that time Schulte was concerned about the impact on businesses along Coon Rapids Boulevard, including his, on plans by the county and the city to upgrade Coon Rapids Boulevard, he said.
“Our businesses were growing closer to the middle of the road and I thought I could provide help to other businesses in navigating the process,” Schulte said.
Achievements during Schulte’s time in office include getting Coon Rapids Boulevard ready for development and redevelopment, which has been occurring “as slow as it has been,” he said.
Maintaining a strong relationship with city staff even though there “has been some right sizing of staff” has also been important, Schulte said.
Schulte is proud of his role in the reconstruction of the Hanson Boulevard-Highway 10 interchange as well as the redevelopment of the Village 10 Shopping Center with Cub Foods and Lifetime Fitness, he said.
And he has been very pleased that during his tenure, the council, despite minor differences, has been able to work together so well, according to Schulte.
“We have been able to put aside personal feelings in making decisions that are best for the city,” Schulte said.
“I hope that legacy carries forward.”
A disappointment was the failure to develop Port Riverwalk on Coon Rapids Boulevard, although had the proposed housing project gone ahead, Schulte said there would have been “huge problems” when the recession and slump in the housing market struck.
Schulte was also disappointed with the process when the proposed community center project was first considered, he said.
The problem was the ideas came before the budget, instead of setting a budget first, then prioritizing the proposed amenities to fit the budget, Schulte said.
“It made possible proponents into opponents,” he said.
Schulte, 52, graduated from Blaine High School in 1979, then spent two years each at Dunwoody Institute and Anoka Technical College in the automotive programs.
He started work at his father’s Hi-Ten Service Center on a part-time basis when he was 12 years old and became a full-time employee once he started college.
Schulte purchased the business from his father, Mel, in 1998, but Mel still shows up for work every day, except when he takes time off to go fishing or for volunteer work, according to Schulte.
Even though his county board commitments will involve a lot of day meetings, he plans to continue to arrive at his business every morning at 4:30 a.m., as he does now, to do the paper work, make the coffee and get the first vehicles ready repairs and maintenance, Schulte said.
And once his county meetings are done, Schulte will return to Hi-Ten Service Center to finish the day, he said.
“I have a very good crew who can carry on without me,” Schulte said.
He will continue to be engaged in the community as a member of the Coon Rapids Rotary Club, Coon Rapids Crime Prevention Association, Coon Rapids Mortgage Assistance Foundation and Anoka-Ramsey Community College Foundation Board as well as the board of directors of First Advantage Bank in Coon Rapids.
“I want to stay grounded with the people I know,” Schulte said.
But he will be resigning from the board of directors of the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC), on which he has served the past 18 months, he said.
Schulte and his wife, Jan, have five children, ranging in age from 20 to 35, and eight grandchildren, with the oldest 20 and the youngest two weeks, who is his first biological grandchild through his son Trevor, he said.
According to Schulte, his wife’s retirement and her desire to play golf has prompted him to start playing golf after “avoiding it all these years.”
He used to race stock cars all over the country, but gave up that sport in 2004 to “get my focus back,” Schulte said.
And Schulte recently put aside his boating hobby after 15 years because “it was too time consuming and expensive,” he said.
He doesn’t hunt, but he has started going on an annual fishing trip to Canada with his father, Mel, Schulte said.
Peter Bodley is at firstname.lastname@example.org