Schulte recognized as honorary pioneer lawmaker at state capitol
DES MOINES — When Iowa Valley Community College District (IVCCD) Chancellor Kristie Fisher describes Cindy Schulte, the district’s longtime director of governmental affairs, a certain word pops into her mind above all others.
“I learned quickly that she is legendary,” Fisher said. “She’s tireless and she’s talented in her work with legislators, not just for Iowa Valley but for the community college system. She’s just… She’s a legend.”
Schulte, who is preparing to retire from her post after 18 years, was inducted as an honorary member of the Pioneer Lawmakers Association at the Iowa State Capitol on Thursday for her lobbying work. Before taking on the job with IVCCD, she previously advocated on behalf of the utility industry, and she was one of five non-legislators to receive the honor this year.
“It’s an honor for me. I have spent 25 years serving as a liaison between whichever group I represented and members in the Senate or the House,” Schulte said. “So I guess they’ve valued my expertise to tell them about issues or concerns with legislation. It’s mainly monitoring legislation that has a positive impact or a negative impact on whatever group I’ve lobbied for.”
The most important aspects of her job, as she explained, have been paying attention to what bills are being proposed and how they would affect her clients and building relationships with lawmakers and other influential figures who might support or oppose specific legislation. She estimated that during any given session, she monitors something like 350 bills pertaining to community colleges.
Politics has always been a part of Schulte’s life, and she’s always been willing to work with individuals on either side of the ideological spectrum. Her father, the late John Soorholtz, served as a state senator and later a Marshall County supervisor, and she fondly remembers working on his campaigns during her younger years in State Center, where she still lives today. Although her educational background was in fashion merchandising, she ended up working for 24 political campaigns in all and later parlayed that experience into a lobbying career.
“You know how to run a campaign, and so therefore you understand what these people have to do as elected officials,” Schulte said. “I take my role seriously because I know that if I don’t tell a legislator about a bill, they risk the chance of getting beat in the next campaign. And then that would come back on our college because we’re not informing them of the appropriate information.”
As Fisher, who has been with IVCCD for the last three years, looked back on her time working with Schulte, she recalled her tireless efforts to promote the $32 million bond issue that ultimately passed in 2019 after it failed to receive a 60 percent supermajority on the first attempt. No matter what the issue is, Fisher has always felt that she can get an informed opinion from her colleague.
“Cindy’s one of those people who legislators go to help them understand an issue or a problem because they trust her,” Fisher said. “She’s just masterful at relationships, but the reason she’s so good at it is because she’s genuine and people know that.”
During the ceremony, Schulte saw plenty of familiar faces, including her daughter, her sister Sharon Soorholtz Greer and her brother-in-law Joel Greer, who served as her personal cheering section.
“It was just wonderful to see her honored because she never talks about herself. What we know in the family is that she quietly and efficiently does so much work for the college and Marshalltown and Marshall County without making a big noise about it,” Sharon Greer said. “And then it was fun to see all the people that respect her in the state come up to her and talk about her… It kind of shows that tradition of service in our family.”
What set Schulte apart, her sister added, is her credibility, which isn’t easy to fake.
“They just know that anytime she speaks, it’s going to be credible,” Greer said. “You have to earn it.”
The recognition puts a cap on a long and fulfilling career that has helped her build lifelong friendships and make an impact for community colleges both within the IVCCD and around the state. As Fisher put it, Schulte’s knowledge and experience are quite simply irreplaceable.
“I always said when I came home at night (that) I never had to turn the news on to know what’s going on,” Schulte said.
Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.