For seasoned lobbyist Jim Schulz, Jr., politics boils down to more than just a checked box on a registration form, television pundits arguing their cases or lively debates being waged at kitchen tables across the country.
In Schulz’s case, politics and government bleed into everyday life, from his family to his passions to his very livelihood.
“I am in a family that has been highly involved in government and community service,” said Schulz, a 47-year-old Hamilton resident. “They stressed the importance of giving back and helping those in your community in any way you can. We have a strong call to service.”
In his early years, Schulz watched his mother, a framer of New Jersey educational policy, join the ranks of females converging onto state government – mavericks in their own right.
“My mother was tremendous,” a beaming Schulz said. “She made a life in a man’s world.”
His father too, a white-collared worker, immersed himself in county and local government.
“My earliest memories are of being involved in and listening to political conversations,” he said. “(My family is) rooted in both the Republicans and Democrats. The politics are pretty similar, but the affiliation is different.”
Trenton-born, Schulz came to Hamilton at a tender age in 1977, when traces of the township’s rural identity still lingered on the surface.
“In some ways, it’s changed significantly, but the folks are still the folks,” he said. “There’s a genuineness you get in this town, and it’s hard to find in other places.
There’s an importance of family, and we have such a deep caring love for our sports teams and the community. Those are the anchor points and the sinews that are emblematic of what Hamilton is.”
In his senior year, a serious car accident left the Hamilton West upperclassmen severely injured and undergoing several months of recovery.
While he managed to graduate, the traumatic experience left its mark on an impressionable Schulz.
“It forced me to reevaluate my life,” he said. “It was great in that it recalibrated me and showed me the importance of education.”
Around the same time, this self-proclaimed “ski rat” began working at Lang’s Ski ‘n Scuba in Ewing, a part-time gig he retains to this day out of sheer enjoyment of the sport.
“I’ve had 30 years there,” he said. “My father passed (skiing) on to me – it was one of our principle family activities. I love the sense of exhilaration, freedom and connectivity to the land…the feeling you get as you shush down the hill.”
After a few semesters at Mercer County Community College, Schulz transferred to Trenton State College, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international comparative politics in 1993.
“My study was about comparing different government entities around the world and understanding how each of those systems works and how they can interact with each other,” he said. “But if you can understand New Jersey government and politics, you can understand just about anything.”
In the dawning of his career and as an intern, Schulz added mentors to his resume that included legislators like former local Assemblymen Anthony “Skip” Cimino and Gerard Naples.
He worked his way up to the New Jersey Assembly Republican Office, where he settled in as a staff assistant before moving on to a lobbying firm.
“I worked in government affairs but it was in a junior position,” he said. “It was a tremendous experience and taught me a lot about the business side of government. It gave me perspective and insight into how government works and the effects it has on business.”
While certainly intertwined, lobbying is much more complex than the government’s two-party system of late, he explained.
“It’s about representing people and clients,” Schulz said. “It’s representing the issues and giving a voice to people in government.”
Schulz would go on to work for then-U.S. Rep. Bob Franks, a Washington D.C.-based New Jersey Republican.
He left The Hill in the fall of 1998, doubly stricken with a case of home and love sickness.
“I wanted to come home,” Schulz said. “I met my wife (in New Jersey), and it was love at first sight…I could not be who I am without her”
Through his many connections, Schulz received a recommendation to serve Gov. Christine Whitman’s administration, and eventually, accepted an appointment as director of intergovernmental affairs for the state.
In 2003, the New Jersey Dental Association had an opening for a lobbyist and Schulz jumped at the opportunity.
“I love my job and I love the folks I represent,” said Schulz, the organization’s director of the governmental affairs. “I represent dentistry…in the healthcare conversation, it holds a unique voice.”
Schulz has helped commandeer New Jersey legislation on behalf of the industry, advocating for extended access to care, the addition of fluoride in public drinking water and Medicaid’s continued support.
“We’re one of the few states that continues to have full dental benefits not only for children, but adults too,” he said.
With two daughters coming of age in his hometown, Schulz has been trying to pass along his family’s “call to service,” if by nothing more than example.
He’s been instrumental to several civic organizations, like the Hamilton Area YMCA, the Mercer County Park Commission, The Golf Association of Philadelphia and more.
“There are so many facet of me that are reflected in where I give my service,” Schulz said. “I believe it’s important to pass that down.”