Election 2020 House District 47
By JAKE WEBSTER
For The Jefferson Herald
State lawmakers have many different professional backgrounds: lawyers, farmers, doctors, among others.
Shelly Stotts wants to be the latest from another field to serve as one of 150 legislators in Des Moines: teaching.
“I think my teaching positions on some of these committees has helped me be a leader and I have to be a self-motivator because it’s my class, my kids,” Stotts said in an interview. “So it’s helped me be able to work on my own if I need to but work in a group also to get things done.”
Stotts, the Democratic nominee for Iowa House District 47, which covers much of Boone and all of Greene County, has worked as an educator for 35 years and currently teaches fifth and sixth grade math at Boone Middle School.
She graduated from Iowa State with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, intending to join her husband on a family farm before the 1980s Farm Crisis upended their plans.
“My husband Jeff and I started out, he was going to be a farmer and help his dad, but with the Farm Crisis of the ’80s he had to stop that and go to work at the elevator,” she said. “So that was a big change, we thought we’d be family farmers.”
Her husband Jeff died in a plane crash in 2000, and Stotts raised her two daughters, Kaitlyn and Allison, as a single mother from the time they were ages 6 and 11, respectively.
“I’ve been a single mom for quite a while now, so I know what that end of the life spectrum is from being a dual parent family,” she said. “And I know some of the things that single parents have to face with day care and those kinds of things. That was a big change in my life.”
Allison has two young daughters, Addison and Ava, while Kaitlyn has Stotts’ “granddog,” Bella.
She said her experience as a working single mom encouraged her to run for the seat.
“That’s part of my (motivation), you know, my family — working families and just how they have to juggle all those things and especially single parents who have to find day care, have to find all these different programs to help them out so that they can go work a job,” Stotts said. “I was lucky to have a job that was secure and I had already got my education, but not all single parents are lucky enough to have that.”
With regards to that job, Stotts told The Jefferson Herald her time in the classroom helps her see things from different perspectives and that could prove an asset in the legislature.
“You know, my childhood is different from a lot of other people’s childhood but you only relate to your own, and so through kids I’ve seen different things that they struggle with and it has nothing to do with learning math and reading,” she said.
Teachers today act as guidance counselors, they buy clothes for students who need them, and schools provide lunches, Stotts explained.
“It’s more like we’re kind of an all-service place — the school is, today,” she said. “And that’s a little different from what I think a lot of people experienced, (they) don’t have any experience except from when they went to school, all the things that go on behind the scenes.”
She added she believes there needs to be more money given to schools to provide counselors and other mental health professionals for students and their families, because “kids are facing a lot tougher issues.”
“Another thing is mental health in schools,” Stotts said. “Kids are facing a lot tougher issues than I ever did, and we need to make sure we provide money to provide counselors and professionals to help them with their mental health and their families with their mental health.”
Stotts has been involved in politics before, with a 2012 bid for state Senate against retiring Republican Sen. Jerry Behn, also of Boone. Stotts lost that race by a little under 10 points.
“And I’ve always been somebody who follows politics,” she said. “Even from a young age — high school — that keeps track, especially the presidential elections and the local elections that affect me.”
As a teacher, Stotts said education is one of the most important issues to her politically, along with increasing the minimum wage. With an ongoing pandemic, however, she said health care has become a more prominent issue in the campaign.
Along with education, health care is also an important issue to Stotts.
“And the fact that the president is thinking about recalling the Affordable Care Act right now when people are — there’s an upswing in the virus — is like crazy to me,” she said.
Her campaign itself, like most campaigns, has had to change due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The pandemic is making campaigning crazy,” Stotts said. “Most of my campaigning is online or on the phone. I don’t get to go out and meet people face-to-face, which I really enjoyed doing last time.”