Schaefer brings attorney background
He says his biggest triumph was a $179 million settlement with Ameren.
Oct. 13, 2008
Kurt Schaefer's goal has always been to help people. Be it as an attorney in private practice, working to resolve death penalty cases, or as a musician, playing bass guitar in a band throughout his college career, Schaefer has actively worked to make people's lives easier.
Schaefer, the Republican candidate for the 19th District State Senate, was born in St. Louis in 1965. He is relatively new to politics, but not to Columbia. He moved here in 1983 to attend MU, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in geography. He also met his wife of 18 years, Stacia. Schaefer dedicated a great deal of his time to the local music scene, paying for his education by both working and playing at The Blue Note.
"We were actually supposed to open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at some point at The Blue Note," Schaefer said. "They were coming from Minnesota and the road was icy and they slid off the road. We were devastated, because we thought it was going to be the coolest thing in the world."
Schaefer would later move on to Vermont Law School, known for its position as a top environmental law school in the country. After his graduation, Schaefer was employed by the attorney general's office in Columbia.
Since, Schaefer has been very involved in the practice of law.
"I've been involved in Missouri's biggest environmental issues," Schaefer said.
He said his involvement with the Taum Sauk Settlement, as a general counsel and deputy director for the Department of Natural Resources, is his biggest accomplishment and also his most defining moment as a political candidate.
The Taum Sauk mountaintop reservoir ruptured in December 2005, releasing over a billion gallons of water and causing extensive damages to the Black River and Johnson Shut Ins State Park.
The ensuing settlement with the Ameren Corporation, brokered in part by Schaefer, provided money for things such as state parks and education.
"Some of the things we dealt with in that case had never been dealt with nationally before," Schaefer said. "Earlier in that settlement, Ameren drew a line in the sand and said that settlement would never be over $60 million and we ended up making $179 million, so we're pretty happy with the way it turned out."
Schaefer said this shows his legislative qualities.
"I think we're missing someone who knows how to be productive and actually negotiate rather than just throwing a wrench into the works," he said.
He said as a candidate, he maintains qualities like "professionalism, the ability to listen, the ability to see creative solutions, to not just be obstreperous or difficult and shoving people out but bringing people together."
Schaefer's role as a parent also serves as an inspiration for his political aspirations. His three children - Max, Lena and Wolfgang - attend school in the Columbia district.
"Living in this community, you look at a lot of things that could be done better here," Schaefer said. "This community can do better and I think I have the skills to make that happen."
Yancy Williams, Schafer's campaign consultant, agreed.
"Kurt's record is phenomenal and is suited very well for the state senate," Williams said. "He has a long history of negotiating conflict in high pressure issues. He is moderate and mainstream in his views and has proven an ability to work with others to reach a common goal."
Schaefer's family life influenced his career choice greatly.
"My dad was a general surgeon in St. Louis, and he was so dedicated to what he did, and that had a lot of influence on me," Schafer said. "People get into different professions for different reasons. He was in the medical field because he wanted to help people and he did. When you see that one person can have such a positive impact, it has a huge influence on you as kid."
Williams sees a similar work ethic in Schaefer.
"He's very deliberative and very serious about his job and his dedication to public service," Williams said. "He juggles a full time job, a full time campaign and has a wife and three small children and manages to fit all that into a 24-hour day."