Schmuhl selected to political office
Adriana Pratt | Thursday, November 17, 2011
One eighth grade morning, Mike Schmuhl, ’05, woke up, got dressed and headed to Saint Joseph’s High School in South Bend to catch a glimpse of what his academic, athletic and social future might hold.
Little did he realize that his day spent shadowing the life of a high school freshman would lead to a career 14 years later.
Pete Buttigieg, now the mayor-elect of South Bend, greeted Schmuhl at the door to give him a tour. The rest … is history.
Schmuhl was selected as the Democratic party chairman for Indiana’s 2nd District Sunday after managing winning campaigns for Buttigieg this year and U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly last year. He is also working as Buttigieg’s chief of staff, assisting Buttigieg with his transition into office.
“I think we’re a great team and we’re very invested in the future of South Bend, and we want to get more young people involved in the process,” Schmuhl said.
Yet, the ties between Buttigieg and Schmuhl run deeper, as both of their fathers are professors at Notre Dame. English Professor Joseph Buttigieg and Robert Schmuhl, the director of the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy, have known each other for years,Mike Schmuhl said.
“Our dads are friends … I think they started [at Notre Dame] the exact same year,” Schmuhl said.
While Buttigieg headed to Harvard after high school, Schmuhl decided to pursue a History major and European Studies minor at the University of Notre Dame. His involvement on campus ranged from playing football for O’Neill to writing for the school paper.
“I was an Assistant Scene Editor for The Observer in — I believe 2001 and 2002,” Schmuhl said. “I used to do music reviews when I was at The Observer and I did Snoop Dog and I did a Battle of the Bands … music reviews and concert reviews and album reviews and it was really funny … I had no idea probably what I was writing about or anything like that.”
As a junior, Schmuhl spent a semester in Washington, D.C., interning for “Meet the Press” with the late Tim Russert. The 2004 Democratic Primaries were the big news item at the time, and Schmuhl said the experience hardened his interest in politics and journalism.
“One of the main reasons I got involved with politics and journalism was I did the Washington, D.C. program my junior year,” Schmuhl said. “[Interning with ‘Meet the Press’] was awesome and just a great experience.”
After graduating in 2005, Schmuhl took a job as a journalist in Minneapolis, then became a radio and television producer for The Washington Post for three years. Schmuhl said while he enjoyed being a journalist, his interest in serving South Bend drove him back home.
“I love the [Washington] Post and I love journalism but … I guess my interest to get involved in my hometown and my community was too strong,” Schmuhl said.
He came back to South Bend in 2009 and has worked in politics ever since.
“I think the fundamental reason … why Pete ran for mayor and why I moved back home was that a number of the people that we grew up with had a choice, … [and they] chose to leave South Bend,” Schmuhl said.
“And Pete and I, through this election and hopefully through his service as our next mayor, hopefully we can change that because it’s a great place to live. It’s a great place to grow up. There’s a lot more to South Bend than meets the eye.”
Robert Schmuhl said he is proud of his son, who has worked on the district and municipal levels of government since he came back to South Bend.
“Mike’s always been fascinated by the workings of government and politics,” Robert Schmuhl said. “He returned to South Bend in 2009 to become civically involved … Young people deserve their chance, and we’re proud of him.”
Though he never took a class with his dad, Schmuhl said his father influenced his career pursuits.
“When I was little, I had this great interest in news and politics because my dad and mom and I would watch ‘NBC Nightly News‘ before dinner every night,” Schmuhl said. “I just grew up with a great appreciation for … my dad’s interest in news and politics and culture, and the apple did not fall too far from the tree.”
As the new Democratic chairman for Indiana’s 2nd District, Schmuhl coordinates Democratic events in North Central Indiana and serves on the state’s Central Committee, which is the governing body of the Indiana Democratic party.
Schmuhl said he also recruits candidates to run for office and hopes that young people will get more involved in local politics.
Anything that connects Notre Dame students to the city of South Bend is a great thing for the community, he said.
“We want to make sure that there are no barriers between the universities and our communities and the city of South Bend, because when we have fewer barriers, then you’ll start to see that we’re a definitive college town,” Schmuhl said.
“I think that South Bend residents and Notre Dame students need to think of their future collectively — that the community will be better off if Notre Dame succeeds in graduating young smart people that can serve the community, and Notre Dame succeeds if the city of South Bend has more jobs and economic growth and more prosperity for all of its residents.”