A majority of elected civic leaders tend to have several years of public service or professional experience under their belts before voters are willing to check the box next to their name on a ballot. That wasn’t the case, however, for Gustavus alumna Carla Shutrop ’09.
Just five short months after graduating from Gustavus with a degree in political science, Shutrop was elected to the school board in her hometown of Shakopee, Minn., in November of 2009. She spent her first year on the board as treasurer, moved to vice-chair last year, and was recently elected chair of the board by her peers in early January.
“Education has always been really important to me overall,” Shutrop said. “I think if we can get education right even on a local level and then as a state, and a nation, it’s the way to combat larger issues like crime, poverty and drugs. It’s getting at the root of a problem instead of solving a symptom of the problem.”
At 25, Shutrop is relatively young to hold such a position of leadership for a fairly large public school district like Shakopee, but those that knew her at Gustavus are not the least bit surprised.
“While a student at Gustavus, Carla was committed to working to improve the campus community in ways she thought important and in talking with others about how to respect different perspectives while working together toward shared goals,” Associate Professor of Political Science and Shutrop’s faculty advisor Alisa Rosenthal said. “She is sincerely committed to building and maintaining strong local communities and I think her work on the Shakopee School Board is evidence of that commitment.”
As chair of the board, Shutrop is responsible for helping to set the agenda for school board meetings which take place twice a month. Her role also dictates that she will serve as the main spokesperson for the board.
Shutrop, who works full-time at the Department of Veterans Affairs, credits her leadership position with the Gustavus College Republicans among other organizations for preparing her for her responsibilities with the school board.
“I spent a lot of time and energy getting the College Republicans back on its feet and more engaged on campus,” Shutrop said. “I also was involved in several political campaigns while I was a student at Gustavus and attended activist trainings which gave me an idea of how to go about running for the school board seat.”
Still, many people including her opponents probably thought it was a long shot for Shutrop to get elected.
“I knew that I had to establish myself as being credible. I showed that I was committed to doing this by caring and being knowledgeable about the issues,” Shutrop said. “I presented myself as having a different perspective and a younger perspective and explained why that was important to have on the board.”
The Shakopee School District serves more than 7,000 students from the communities of Shakopee, Savage, Prior Lake, and Jackson, Louisville, and Sand Creek Townships. Shutrop says that the fact that the district is still growing has presented interesting yet exciting challenges for her and her fellow board members during the first two years of her four-year term.
“I played a role in the hiring of a new superintendent last year which was a very time-intensive process,” Shutrop said. “We also redrew the elementary attendance boundaries in order to open a new elementary school, while temporarily closing another school so it could reopen as a sixth grade center.”
Shutrop said she doesn’t know at this time if she will run for re-election in Nov. of 2013, but she also won’t rule out running for a higher political office someday.
“My professors at Gustavus always said they could see me running for office someday and they were always very supportive of that,” she said.