In Her Words: Schulist Aims for District 8

Metro Wire Staff

Lynn Schulist is running for the city’s 8th District.

Schulist, 37, grew up in the Shantytown area before moving to Stevens Point for college. She has a bachelor’s degree from UWSP and earned her MBA from the University of Liverpool.

The mother of one teenager works in the private sector, as a brand manager for a large financial company. She has volunteered her time with the Board of Rosholt Youth Baseball, Rosholt Youth Football and was appointed by the district superintendent to the ‘Weight Room Steering Committee’ to expand and bring access to the school weight room facilities to district community members in Rosholt. 

Schulist is challenging incumbent Cathy Dugan.

Schulist participated in a face-to-face interview on Jan. 15. The questions posed, and her responses, are published verbatim below:

1. Why are you running?

“There are several reasons; I want to bring a new, fresh voice to city government, and help shape our city for sustainable growth, and prosperity, today and for future generations. As a fifth-generation Central Wisconsin resident, I’m invested in our city and surrounding area; I want to preserve our city’s natural beauty while balancing land owner rights. I also believe we need to address our aging infrastructure, and supporting sustainable growth will be key to ensure a balanced budget without cutting services or raising taxes.”

2. How are you going to maintain services without raises taxes?

“You need growth to do that. I think there needs to be a larger focus on growth; there are a lot of great ideas out there to add new services or enhance things, which I think is awesome, however, we have a pretty tight budget and we can’t afford it. We’ve had a lot of organic growth—existing businesses or developers in the area expanding or starting a new company, and I think we still need to cultivate that, but also look outwards to see what other opportunities might be a great fit for an addition to bring in good paying jobs, family-supporting jobs. We’ve had a lot of white-collar growth, which is amazing, but I still hear from people that manufacturing jobs have been slowly going away. That doesn’t mean they’re all going away; I think it takes a dedicated strategy to go out and find those things, so long as the taxpayer wins in the long run.”

3. So when you talk about growth, are you including in that new home construction?

“You need both. I think you need to have the space available to show there’s room to expand for new homes, but it’s going to start with the business aspect. Everything else will follow.”

4. This current council is not-so-varied in terms of mentality. There seems to be a large focus on social justice, environmentalism, parks, the university—all of which are great things for the community, but none of which directly addresses the exact issues of growth you mentioned earlier. How would you handle being in a situation where you truly feel the majority is focused only on quality-of-life issues we already possess in the city?

“I think that’s where being a leader in your district will help. If I do disagree with the majority, I think it’s a matter of getting the word out to constituents, then others in the city, who feel the same way I do. I think the power is in the people at the end of the day. I would engage my constituents to attend council meetings, write letters, whatever they feel comfortable doing, in order to influence the majority. The City Council position is a nonpartisan position; I will approach it with open ears, an open mind and an open heart to hear all sides before making a final decision. At the end of the day, though, a good idea is a good idea.”

5. We’ve had no shortage of interesting topics, sometimes controversial, including a recent theme of removing mayoral power, and giving more authority to the council. What are you thoughts on that?

“That’s an interesting debate, but it depends on what they’re presenting. I believe President [Meleesa] Johnson presented the Executive Committee, and I went to that meeting all prepared to speak, because that was not a good idea. I respect her, she admitted that was probably a mistake on her part. Alder [Tori] Jennings proposed another change, it was a small change, to have committees elect their own chairs. The entire city elects the mayor, and based upon those functions, at some point, as a council, we have to ask ourselves if we keep taking away more and more power, what is the function of the mayor? I agree with the mayoral form of government, because in my lifetime under [Gary] Wescott and [Andrew] Halverson, it’s worked well. We have to remember the entire city elected that individual to mayor under the pretense they would appoint committee chairs. If there’s a large enough constituency who feels that needs to be changed, we could address that with an open forum. I think Alder [Mike] Phillips said ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.'”

6. What are you hearing from people in your district, as far as their main concerns?

“District 8 is huge, so I feel like it’s a little different from neighborhood to neighborhood. The constituents closer to Stanley St. are not in favor—and I’m in the same boat as they are—of the recently-proposed re-striping. People are open to change, but it has to not adversely affect their quality of life. If you don’t live in the area, or don’t cross it regularly, I could completely understand someone thinking, ‘Why can’t we re-stripe it?’ but try crossing it at rush hour.”

7. Is there a problem on Stanley St., and if there is, how would you propose fixing it?

“I sat down with Scott [Beduhn, director of public works] and he shared with me that a few years ago, when Bus. 51 was hot and heavy with the road diet, it was very controversial. They went to AECOM to ask if there was another street they could test it on, and they mentioned North Point Dr. and Stanley St. From what I understand, people who are passionate about biking and bike lanes have really attached themselves to it and tried to push it forward. I didn’t see how that solution would solve it…ultimately, whatever they decide to do, whatever the solution is, it should offer a break in traffic.”

8. And what about Bus. 51? We’re going to have to address that, as a city, soon.

“I think this is an area I need to do additional research on to understand all the possibilities. I’m not against bike lanes, but bike lanes have gotten a lot of air time over the past couple of years. I feel like anything they put forward now, there’s pressure to put bike lanes, or bike symbols. If it makes sense, great, but I don’t think Bus. 51 is where it belongs—“

9. So who decides if it makes sense?

“I mean, ultimately it comes down to the council. But I think your job on the City Council is to poke holes in the presentation; meet with appropriate department heads to understand the affects, positive and negative.”

10. Motorists are required to renew their registration every year; they are required to carry insurance, they pay for gas, they spend a lot of money every year to keep their vehicles up-to-date. That money, at least in part, funnels into the systems which sustain our roadways, and police have systems to penalize motorists who violate driving-related laws. Bicycles don’t have the same requirements: maybe they are technically required to have a license, maybe they should be wearing a helmet, but by-and-large they aren’t held to the same standard as motorists. From a strictly financial perspective, does it make sense to be spending so much time and money on a group that, as a whole, doesn’t necessarily funnel money back into the system and isn’t held to the same standard?

“I think as of the last two years, it has been disproportionately discussed. I think we should be really proud of what we have right now, as far as bike-ability in Stevens Point. We’re a bronze-level bicycle friendly community. I think we need to take a step back and celebrate that designation. Granted, there’s always room for improvement. I have a business background, and we need to do a cost-benefit analysis on this. We’re at a point where our budget is tapped; there’s not a lot of wiggle room. I asked Scott [Beduhn] how much that paint cost on Prentice St.; it cost about $3,000 for those bike markings, and we have to look at that every two or three years to repaint it. Going back to my thoughts on growth; if we had more growth, and more room in our budget, I would definitely be more supportive of looking for ways to enhance the bike-friendliness in our community.”

11. Growth seems to be a passionate part of your campaign: take a look at Plover, they’re exploding with growth. Why aren’t we, and what specifically would you suggest the city do to change that?

“I think, growing up in this area and being a younger professional, I’ve grown frustrated with the past few councils…I remember when Toyota wanted to come in, and that didn’t happen. I’m someone who wants to live many more years here, and have a council that doesn’t miss out on those opportunities. You need growth, otherwise you’re going to be going in the hole in the long-term.”

12. Okay, but how do we grow?

“When it comes to housing, growth really has to come from what the demand is for; is the demand for higher-end apartment, affordable apartment, single-family homes? Given what the housing study said, you need more quality housing for renters and affordable homes. You want to accommodate young families and young professionals. We need to explore if we want to attract millennials right out of college…they want to live as cheaply as possible so they can make a dent in their student loans, and how low-to-no cost leisure activities.”

13. We have a very rich culture here…lots of parks, outdoor activities, art, music, museum, the college…what are, in your opinions, two or three of the biggest problems or challenges in the city?

“At a high level I’m thinking more down the road. We had a good year of growth last year, mainly because of the new Sentry development. But where is that future growth going to come from? If we don’t have the growth and our budget stays the same, and our cost of living goes up, you’re basically going in the hole if you have zero-to-minimal growth. And at some point you’re going to have to cut services. No one wants to do that. We need to look at sustainable, smart growth, so we can at least maintain, or incrementally enhance our existing services. It’s very disappointing to see our police department has to fund-raise for a drug dog, or they didn’t receive a grant for an additional drug officer. I talked with Chief Skibba, and that’s something our community really needs. We need to make sure we’re addressing those issues as well, but again, it all goes back to operational budget, which is based on growth. We first need to make sure the police department has what they need, the fire department have what they need, and then we can look at some of these things like parks and bike lanes. We have a great base; we should continue to nurture and maintain them, but not at the expense of what we truly need. We should not sell ourselves short in thinking we can’t get around Stevens Point on a bike; we’re ahead of the curve on bike lanes already.”

14. Anything we did not ask you wanted to include?

“You asked for a specific suggestion on how to go after growth. I imagine there’s more of a PR/marketing campaign we could use in attracting millennials. We need to refresh the way we promote the city, whether it’s a campaign or a sustainable marketing plan, it’s something that could be refreshed annually.”