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Breaking the Ice: Coffee, rural roots fuel advocate/lobbyist

Name: Susie Emmert Schatz

Title: Senior director of advocacy and volunteer services, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in social work, Ohio University; masters in social work with emphasis on public policy, Augsburg College

As a social worker, Susie Emmert Schatz has worked in the field with older people and those with disabilities or mental illness.

Moving into public policy has enabled her to continue on a larger scale at the Capitol. She has been at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota for the last seven years after getting her master’s degree in social work.

“I decided I wanted to help change the system for more folks, to impact more people rather than one at a time,” Schatz said.

Schatz also is an adjunct instructor at Augsburg, where she teaches public policy to direct practice social workers.

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. Just come up and start talking to me and we’ll find something to talk about. Or wear really cool shoes or something and I’ll start a conversation with you.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. I’ve been reading some biographies of FDR, “The Last American Man” by Elizabeth Gilbert and “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron. I tend to have a lot of bookmarks in different books.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. Holes in socks.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. I love spending time with my 5-year-old son and doing fun kid stuff with him. Drinking coffee. That’s an all-the-time thing. Coffee is my overall addiction at all times. I go running a lot, ran some races over the last year. I’ve run two half marathons and a 10-mile in the last few months.

Q. If someone visited you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. I always take people to go for a walk on my dad’s farm where I grew up (near Somerset, Ohio) and to see the wetlands that he built. He worked with the federal government, I think, to build wetlands to increase waterfowl populations.

Q. What’s one way to end partisan polarization?

A. It’s so helpful to build relationships both among lobbyists and staffers and legislators and for all of us to show up not making assumptions about another person’s beliefs or why they’re here — but to ask them. You can find common ground with anybody.

Q. If you’re not at your desk, you’re probably where?

A. At a coffee shop, meeting with other lobbyists or legislators.

Q. A highlight or lowlight of your commute to work is?

I love the stories that my son tells me on the way to school. He is a born storyteller. They tend to be about rescue missions, hot lava, that kind of thing.

Q. What is something very few people know about you?

A. I was a huge 4-H’er. I grew up on a farm. I used to take dairy cows, chickens, rabbits. I made an outfit in sewing. Tree planting, photography. I was a 4-H camp counselor for many years. I was in 4-H for however long you can be in it. It was a big part of my life. I won grand champion chicken and I was runner-up for the Perry County Fair Queen. I learned so many skills in 4-H about how to be a good human and work with other people and exercise my creativity, [and to] put yourself out there into sometimes uncomfortable situations like wearing an outfit that you make on a runway. Another thing is I love square dancing.

Q. What’s your favorite hidden place at the Capitol?

A. Before the renovation there was a secret women’s bathroom not everybody knew about that some of us were privy to. You just had to know the doors to open. I am going to see if it’s still there.

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