Inver Hills Community College alumna has served as a Dakota County commissioner since 1999
Nancy Schouweiler discovered her calling as a public servant in her role as a mother looking out for her children. A 1975 graduate of South St. Paul High School, Schouweiler married two years later and moved to Inver Grove Heights. She enrolled at Inver Hills Community College in 1982 and earned her A.S. degree in the Legal Assistant program, graduating in 1985.
She worked off and on as a paralegal for a few years before getting elected to the Inver Grove Heights School Board. “I went to a few school board meetings to advocate for my kids,” Schouweiler said. She observed the board in action and soon realized she had the drive and acumen to do a better job.
Schouweiler hit the books big time once she was on the school board. She attended Hamline University, double-majoring in political science and American studies. “I went straight into grad school at Hamline,” she said, “and earned a Master in Public Administration. My daughter, Emily, was an undergrad at Hamline when I was a graduate student.”
While working on her master’s at Hamline, Schouweiler developed her passion for county government. “I learned that the level of government that has the most to do with people’s everyday lives is county government,” she said. Taking that knowledge and a newfound inspiration, she ran for the Dakota County Board of Commissioners in 1998. She beat the incumbent by 33 votes and joined the board in 1999, the same year she got her M.P.A. She has been representing District 4 ever since, having never lost an election.
A day in the life of a county commissioner is rarely typical. Schouweiler attends numerous meetings covering a wide variety of topics and issues, which means she is devoted to reading up on agendas and conducting intensive research. Her considerable workload is all the more remarkable because county commissioners do not have personal staff.
“Research really is a critical part of my job,” she said. “It’s amazing what you become an expert on.”
Nancy Schouweiler is a lifelong resident of Dakota County, the third most populous county in Minnesota. In 2004, Schouweiler became the first woman to chair the Dakota County Board of Commissioners. She chaired again in 2008 and 2012. She is a past president of the Association of Minnesota Counties as well as a board member and chairperson of the Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee for the National Association of Counties.
Appointed by the governor, she serves on the Minnesota State Advisory Council on Mental Health’s Subcommittee on Children’s Mental Health. In 2007, Schouweiler was recognized by the IHCC college community with the Inver Hills Outstanding Alumni Award.
Nancy Schouweiler’s greatest concerns as a county commissioner center on the county’s budget and finding ways to keep taxes down. Dakota County has one of the lowest tax rates in the state and maintains a AAA bond rating. She is focused on meeting the needs of the nearly 57,000 constituents in her district, which includes Inver Grove Heights Precincts 2–7, Eagan Precincts 8 and 13–17, and Rosemount Precincts 1–2, 4 and 6–7. Continuing to deliver high-quality county services is a keystone priority.
“Every commissioner I’ve ever met has found that the job is way different than they expected,” Schouweiler said. “I was really surprised by the amount of time and effort that goes into the state legislative agenda and the legislature itself. We are also involved in federal lobbying. Counties compete for bonding dollars, but we also collaborate on joint issues.”
Core responsibilities of government at the county level:
- Public safety
- Public health
- Transportation and transit
- Services for vulnerable populations
Her advice for students thinking of careers in public service is concise. “Bone up on your issues,” she said, “and pick an elected official to shadow. It’s hard to describe what we do. You have to see for yourself.”
Schouweiler has been married 37 years to her husband, Greg, a pharmacist who owns a neighborhood pharmacy in South St. Paul. Pro Pharmacy has been the family business since 1975. The couple has two children. Emily, who majored in sociology at Hamline, has two children of her own, Nolan, 7, and Gracyn, 4. Russell is the women’s head soccer coach at Luther College. Schouweiler noted with a smile that she is a soccer mom and grandmother.
Nancy Schouweiler’s current term as county commissioner expires in 2016. She continues to champion the positive impact of county government. “My greatest rewards as a commissioner come from the little things,” she said. “I like to see kids enjoying a library. I like to watch families having fun in the parks. That is really satisfying.”
For more information about the Inver Hills Alumni Association, contact:
- Mary Dimick