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Mark Schoesler of Zion UCC leads State Senate

Zion UCC Ritzville member Mark Schoesler, who will be the Republican leader of the Majority Coalition Caucus in the Washington State Senate for the next two years, said he finds much less polarization than “media portrayal of hyper-partisan gridlock suggests.”

mark schoesler
Mark Schoesler has been serving in State Legislature since 1993. Photo courtesy of Mark Schoesler

He pointed out, for example, that even though there are 24 Democrats and 25 in the Republican coalition, the 2013 state budget had 43 votes.

“In the legislature, I believe it’s important to have a positive attitude, so I see the budget glass as half full, not half empty,” he said.

Believing that it’s as critical for government as for nonprofits and churches to be stewards of the money they have, he looks for effectiveness, rather than coming with a predetermined view of what an outcome should be, such as raising taxes or slashing everything.

Last year, he was appalled when the Department of Social and Health Services spent $750,000, not for the safety net, but “for an expensive party for bureaucrats.”

“People need to be accountable for how they spend tax dollars,” Mark said.  “If we give hard-earned money to a church or civic group, we want them to use it wisely.  The same is true for government.”

He also challenged a proposal to build a building in Olympia for the State Patrol.  It would cost 50 percent less for a long term leas, so more funds could go for public safety.

The Schoesler family are among the original families in Zion UCC, now Zion Philadelphia UCC in Ritzville.

“I am the fifth generation  member on my maternal grandmother’s side.  My two children and three grandchildren were baptized there,” he said, “so we have had seven generations of my family in Zion Church.”

Mark was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1993 and has served since 2004 in the State Senate.  Since then he has been less involved in the church in Ritzville.

“In a small church, we wear many hats.  I was a deacon, trustee and moderator until I was elected and in Olympia three to six months a year,” he said. “Now when I’m home, I enjoy worshiping with my family.”

Mark took confirmation classes from the church’s then German pastor, who taught a traditional understanding of the Bible and church. 

He remembers that his Grandmother Schoesler, a matriarch in the church, expected the family to attend every week.

So if his parents wanted to take the family fishing, they hooked up the boat trailer, went to church, came home, changed clothes, and climbed in the car to go fishing.

Mark’s father’s family was from the German Russians—known as Volga Deutsch—and his mother’s family, the Heinemans, were from Germany.

“The Russian Germans had an understanding with Catherine the Great that they would have religious freedom, have land to farm and not have to serve in the military.  When she died, her successors backed out of the agreement, so many Volga Germans fled.

“I’m fascinated by that history,” said Mark, telling how 21 years ago his father and some cousins went to visit two villages on the Volga, where their forebears had lived.

“I learned from their visit about the suffering of families.  We could have been stuck there, living in third-world conditions or exiled to Siberia for our faith.  Our children could have been forced to serve in the military for yet another stupid war,” he commented, appreciating being an American.

Both sides of his family settled in the Ritzville area in the 1880s.  He farms land from his parents’ families.  He and his wife, Ginger, grow wheat and canola, and have cattle.

“The first generation were wheat growers,” he said.  “I started experimenting with canola in the 1980s, seeking to improve crop rotations.  The growing trend nationally includes canola for economic and agronomic reasons.”

Serving in the House and then Senate, he is able to help with harvesting and planting, but often misses spring work.

“I first ran because of my concern about the long-term survival of agriculture in the region,” said Mark, who represents the 9th Legislative District in all or part of Adams, Asotin, Franklin, Garfield, Spokane and Whitman counties. 

“Fiscal conservatism has always been part of my life, so I want to assure smart fiscal decisions.  I look at the nation’s debt roller coaster with deficits and taxes.  It affects our state, and it’s troubling,” he said.  “If money is taken forcibly from people in taxes, we need to spend it wisely.  People want the best value for their money.”

Mark is concerned about the challenge from the courts to fund basic education.

“Their decision puts us in a hard situation because the public is not prone to raise taxes,” Mark said.

He repeated his commitment for state programs to practice the same stewardship as faith based and nonprofit organizations.

“Where the government is to be responsible for a safety net, it is to be a good steward, scrutinizing every dollar wisely before appropriating it,” he said.  “We must always be asking:  Is there a smarter way to spend that dollar?”

Mark is aware that legislators may disagree on what is wise and smart, but both Republicans and Democrats care about the less fortunate.

“We just differ sometimes on ways to care for the vulnerable,” he said.

“I’m always optimistic,” Mark said.  “We come into this session with nearly $3 billion more in revenue.”

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Pacific Northwest Conference United Church News Copyright © December 2014



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