“The rock on which a strong house is built or the fire that burns it down.”
Dave Schatz is a competitor. He’s an avid fisher and hunter, has coached virtually every sport imaginable for his children, and has an almost unparalleled affinity for golf. Schatz loves to win — and he brings that same drive to the statehouse.
Schatz has risen in the Capitol from a state representative to president pro tem of the Missouri Senate. Because of his dedication to Missouri’s infrastructure, skillful setting of the session’s policy agenda, and ardent allegiance to principle, The Missouri Times has named Schatz its 2020 Statesman of the Year.
“We have been fortunate to honor then-Sen. Kehoe, Gov. Mike Parson, and Caleb Jones for their contributions to the state that we all love. The winner of this year’s Statesman of the Year was obvious last year when the whole state got to see Sen. Schatz put the state before himself, before partisanship, before personal advancement and complete the state’s obligation to fund the Rocheport Bridge,” The Missouri Times publisher Scott Faughn said. “A year from now, when the construction of the bridge is fully underway, no one will think about what Schatz did on the floor, all of the countless conversations and dealmaking and time spent away from this business and family. However, anytime anyone drives through the middle of the state, they will benefit from the service he did. That’s why we are proud and honored to name Sen. Schatz as the 2020 Statesman of the Year.”
“Sen. Schatz has been a great ally of our administration, working closely with us on major issues such as transportation and infrastructure,” Gov. Mike Parson said. “Last year, he guided the Senate through one of the most challenging times for our state and nation. He has proven himself a strong lawmaker, leader, and public servant, and I can think of no one more deserving of this honor.”
Schatz, 57, grew up around politics; his father ran for political office and was involved in the central committee. But Schatz’s involvement really came because of a sermon given by a pastor in Texas.
“The pastor said, ‘Never complain about what you permit.’ That was always resonating in my mind; if I’m going to complain, I need to be willing to do something about it,” Schatz said.
So Schatz — who at this point had begun to run the family utility contracting company and saw firsthand how politics translated into business — jumped into a fundraising event for a candidate for attorney general. And then Rep. Charlie Schlottach, a close friend, was terming out of the General Assembly.
Schatz asked, “Who is going to replace Charlie?” It turned out to be him.
In the legislature, Schatz has taken on changes to the Missouri One Call System and workers’ compensation. He’s focused on business issues and increasing access to certain permits. But perhaps his legacy will be solidified in his relentless focus on improving transportation funding.
Schatz deftly maneuvered a bonding package to expedite repair or replacement of hundreds of bridges, including the Rocheport Bridge, in Missouri through the General Assembly in 2019. The package was contingent upon a federal grant the state received just a few months after the legislature approved the proposal.
“Sen. Dave Schatz understands how important transportation infrastructure is to maintaining our state’s greatest competitive advantage: our location,” said U.S. Senator Roy Blunt. “His leadership on the bonding measure for the Rocheport Bridge helped us make a strong, successful case for federal funding. This is a perfect example of how important state-federal partnerships are to securing support for critical infrastructure projects. I’m pleased Sen. Schatz is being recognized for his efforts and the lasting impact they will have on Missouri families and our state’s economy.”
Schatz is a master of balance. As president pro tem, Schatz handles any issue thrown his way, from assigning legislation to committees to juggling dozens of senators to reimagining the Senate’s proceedings in the midst of a pandemic.
“It has been a pleasure to work with Sen. Schatz in our Senate leadership roles,” Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden said. “People have a general perception of what ‘politicians’ are like. Dave breaks that mold — and in the best way possible. I have also seen Dave’s personality change and soften as he has moved into this leadership role. He recognized the need to adjust to fit his new role and made the adjustment. That’s the sign of a true leader and of a statesman.”
“Sen. Schatz and I began together in the House. Over the years, I’ve learned that Sen. Schatz can be the rock on which a strong house is built or the fire that burns it down depending on the issue,” Minority Leader John Rizzo said. “This has made him an effective leader for the Republican Caucus, and I’ve enjoyed working with him — and sometimes against him — in the Missouri Senate.”
Schatz is also the vice-president of his family’s Schatz Underground, Inc., serves as a deacon at his church in Sullivan, entertains his children and grandchildren at the family farm, and sits on a bank board. Schatz stresses the importance of having “good people” on his team — but he also relies on his faith.
“Everyone has a testimony. Mine is somewhat longer than others. The challenges that I faced in my life without being able to rely upon the faith that I have, and the reality of knowing that this life is not all there is to it has led me to be able to go through and have a different perspective,” Schatz said. “I don’t check my religion at the door. I’m not going out there and beating people over the head with it, but that really brings me through the process of if I have to evaluate decisions, how does that match up with what I say if I claim that I’m a follower of Jesus Christ.”
“I have done a lot of things. I can tell you a lot of stories, but at the end of the day, the important thing is our faith needs to be evident,” he added. “Hopefully, at some point in time — even though we get in this building and we think the things we’re doing are important — if somebody can’t see through our actions that there is something different about us because of our faith, then we’re not doing it right.”
Rev. G. Scott Perry of Temple Baptist Church said he’s known Schatz since 1991 and has watched him get more involved in the church, from mission trips to leading Bible studies. Perry said Schatz, before making any major political decision, will call him so can be “checked from a spiritual point of view and make sure he’s following the right voice.”
“A lot of our relationship has been forged out of some tragic circumstances. His faith is more than just an exterior application of an otherwise indifferent heart. His faith genuinely is lived out in practical terms,” Perry said. “I’m thrilled to have him in a leadership role [in the General Assembly], and he has represented our church extremely well. He’s not only a good man and Godly man, he’s a good husband and father.”
Despite all he’s accomplished and all he’s overcome (including the death of his son when he was just getting started in Missouri politics in 2010), Schatz remains incredibly humble.
“When I think of people who are a statesman, I think of people like Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and [former] Sen. Emery, people that have served selflessly,” Schatz said. “They have given up their time and sacrificed and were not looking for accolades and rewards but doing it out of a servant’s heart and not to see how far they can elevate themselves. … I look at those people and look at people who have done that who have humility as well and there are several people who I consider to be a statesman, and I don’t know if I stand in that category, but I appreciate the consideration.”
“I’m fortunate and blessed to be able to sit in the position that I am right now, and sometimes I just wonder how it occurred that I was a country boy from Franklin County that probably wasn’t an excellent student — didn’t do anything academically to excite anyone, didn’t go to college — that winds up here in the Missouri Senate to serve in this capacity.”
Kehoe praised Schatz for being a “conscientious and effective legislator who leads the Senate by cultivating consensus.”
“As anyone who knows Dave can attest, he is also refreshingly direct,” Kehoe said. “One doesn’t leave a conversation with Dave wondering what his thoughts are on a particular topic. One of Dave’s greatest attributes is that his life does not revolve around politics. He is, at his core, a Christian, a devoted family man, a small business owner, and an avid outdoorsman who models the founders’ vision for a citizen legislator.”
As he was named the 2020 Statesman of the Year, praise for Schatz came pouring in:
Former Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard: “In order to be successful as president of the Senate, you need to be a consensus builder. I believe he does that. Allowing other senators’ priorities to advance ahead of his own is a sign of leadership. The recognition is well deserved.”
2019 Statesman of the Year Caleb Jones: “When it comes to legislation, there is no better person to have on your side than Dave Schatz. Equally important, when you are in a turkey bind, there is no better person you want calling in a tom than Dave Schatz. Dave works to make Missouri better, not because he needs to but because he wants to. He is a true Missourian, and there is no one who works as hard as him to make his state better for his family, friends, and citizens.”
Sen. Lincoln Hough: “When I think of Dave, I think of someone who is very passionate about three things: his family, his friends, and fishing. I first met Dave while we were both serving in the House, and one of the things that first struck me was his competitiveness. He will compete on about anything — how many fish, how big a fish, how cute the grandkids are (and they are cute), but really anything, he’ll compete on it. These traits of passion and competitiveness are what makes Dave the leader he is, and that’s why he’s deserving of being Statesman of the Year.”
Missouri Limestone Producers Association executive director (and former Schatz chief of staff) Dan Kleinsorge: “Working for Dave was the best experience of my career. Dave always has a story — from a fishing trip in Alaska or a hunting trip out west — and he had innumerable life lessons to share from his business. I learned a ton from Dave, and I’m glad he’s being recognized as a statesman.”
Former state Sen. John Griesheimer: “I have been honored and fortunate to know Dave for many years. He is truly one of the nicest individuals on the face of this earth. He will go down in history as the first top legislative leader from either chamber in the history of Franklin County. Congratulations, Dave, to you and your wonderful family!”
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at email@example.com.