Schachtner on a quest for solutions
Patty Schachtner has a lot of questions.
Why is incarceration seen by some as an investment while education is viewed as an expense, she wonders. When you base all your decisions on money, she asks, what are the unintended consequences?
"I'm just a farm girl from St. Croix County," said Schachtner, the Democratic candidate seeking to succeed Sheila Harsdorf in the 10th Senate District. "I have questions!"
The Somerset resident will face Republican Rep. Adam Jarchow of Balsam Lake and Wilson resident Brian Corriea, a Libertarian, in a Jan. 16 special election.
The quest for answers, Schachtner says, is how she approaches politics.
"Either we are willing to invest in solutions or we are not," she said.
A Somerset native, Schachtner spent her entire life in St. Croix County, eventually attending Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, where she was first introduced to EMT training. Classes there launched her career as an EMT in 1989, which Schachtner continued until 2002 when she transitioned to working as a first responder until 2013.
Schachtner has been St. Croix County's medical examiner since 2011 — a position she said allows her to serve the public in a unique way.
"We make sure that everyone who crosses paths with our office is treated with the utmost respect and dignity," she said.
While her Senate bid represents her first run at state office, Schachtner isn't a stranger to elected office. She served two terms on Star Prairie Town Board before being elected in 2015 to Somerset School Board, where she continues to serve her first term.
Schachtner said she doesn't buy the argument from political candidates who claim they don't have an agenda.
"You do not run for public office if you don't have a reason," she said.
Her reason for joining the town board was to bring a female voice to what she said was then an all-male body. Her work in Somerset schools as a nurse's aide — blended with her experiences as medical examiner — shaped her decision to run for school board, she explained.
But when the Senate vacancy occurred, Schachtner had little interest until friends began urging her to run. She eventually warmed to the idea after consultation with her family.
"I do believe that we are always role models in our little corners of the world," she said. "Now I've got to practice what I preach."
Schachtner said mental health access, education funding and addiction-related issues would be among her chief priorities as a state senator. She said addiction and mental health care access are the biggest problems facing Wisconsin's employers. Schachtner said she would work to establish regional mental-health programs around the state — especially in western Wisconsin.
"We've never really asked for help so far and we need to do it," she said.
Working in a partisan environment like Madison would be new territory for Schachtner, but she said she's got experience forging bipartisan relationships. She said she worked on legislation with Harsdorf and knows that persistence is key in keeping discussions alive.
"You have to learn to be a thorn," she said.
The next senator will represent a district that stretches from northern cabin country in Burnett County to River Falls at its southern tip. Schachtner said that means recognizing the difference in opportunities for residents from remote areas to those more closely connected to the Twin Cities metro.
"So we have to look at that," she said.