New conference director brings government experience
by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Michael Schuttloffel may be young, but the new executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference has spent almost one-third of his life working in government.
The 34-year-old Schuttloffel recently served as an adviser for transportation policy to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and served as the governor’s liaison to the Texas Department of Transportation. Before his stint in Texas, Schuttloffel served at various times as a congressional staffer to four members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Now he wants to put that expertise to work for the Catholic Church as the chief lobbyist for the bishops of Kansas.
“This is an opportunity to make, hopefully, a positive and lasting contribution to the church,” Schuttloffel said in a telephone interview May 19.
“At the same time, I stay involved politically and continue to make a positive contribution to the political process,” he said. “It’s the best of both worlds. I love my country and I love my church, and this is a way to advance the best principles of both.”
When he assumes his new role in July, Schuttloffel will be the fourth executive director in the history of the Kansas Catholic Conference. He succeeds Mike Farmer, who died on Nov. 7, 2007.
His experience will allow him to hit the ground running.
“I know how the system works at the federal level and the state level,” said Schuttloffel. “I understand the mechanism of government and how the issues play [at those levels]. I also have experience dealing with the media and persons in high levels of government.”
“Politics isn’t just about loudly broadcasting whatever it is you think about on a given subject,” he added. “It’s about getting things done. And in order to get things done in the political arena, you just have to understand these things.”
“Sometimes it can be complicated,” he admitted. “You have to be confident, on one hand, that you can stay firm in your principles, but on the other hand, that you know how to compromise and reach out to people who see things a different way. Again, that’s easier said than done.”
A five-member search committee and Michael Shirley, of the executive search firm Michael Shirley Associates, Inc., assisted the bishops of Kansas in their search for the new executive director.
“There were more than 30 people interested in serving in this position, which speaks to the importance of the Kansas Catholic Conference,” said Msgr. Michael Mullen, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kan., and a member of the committee. “We were very grateful for that response.”
The committee looked at the candidates’ strengths in three areas: representing the church to various constituencies, articulating the positions of the church, and administrative skills. The bishops interviewed the final six candidates and ultimately selected Schuttloffel.
Another member of the search committee, archdiocesan superintendent Kathy O’Hara, said the bishops wanted someone who had good knowledge of the legislative process on the state and national levels and who knew the issues.
“I think [the bishops] were looking at ways to enhance the effectiveness and visibility of the conference as issues come up, such as the life issues and immigration,” said O’Hara.
“[They wanted] someone who would help educate legislators, and Catholics as well, about the moral dimensions of the issues,” she continued, “so they would understand why the church has taken its positions.”
Msgr. Mullen believes that the bishops have made an excellent choice.
“We’re happy to have him,” said Msgr. Mullen. “He’s a good listener. He’s very committed to the church. He’s open to whatever might be the mission of the church on a given issue, and to represent that well.
“But he’s also creative, and I believe he will propose to the bishops and the church what he sees as effective ways to do things, and the bishops respect that.”