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GEM’s Gems February 2013 – Dan Schmidt

January 28, 2013
Dan Schmidt Photo 1

Dan Schmidt

Dan Schmidt, Policy Director for Energy and Environment at the Office of Indiana Governor Mike Pence, is “GEM’s Gem” for February 2013. Schmidt, 39, was previously employed by the private sector before transitioning into this new role. Schmidt says he is leaning heavily on the education he received through the Global Energy Management Program to move Indiana’s energy industry forward.

Schmidt worked his way into the Governor’s Office by serving as a volunteer policy coordinator for the Pence campaign last year. Schmidt previously served as a Strategic Planner and the Director of Energy Development for Schmidt Associates, an architecture and engineering firm that specializes in energy planning and efficiency projects. Schmidt holds a law degree from Indiana University, and has practiced law in Kokomo, Indiana for several years. He recently received his Master of Science degree from the Global Energy Management Program at CU Denver and was a member of Cohort 6.

Briefly describe your current role and responsibilities.

In my role as Policy Director, I am responsible for advising Governor Pence regarding policy, conducting research support for policy position, and preparing talking points to support messaging through the communications staff. During the legislative session, I am responsible for reviewing legislation related to my policy portfolio, and I support the work of our legislative relations staff to move the Governor’s agenda through the state legislature. Finally, I serve as a liaison to various state agencies, including the Office of Energy Development, the Utility Regulatory Commission, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Department of Environmental Management.

How has the GEM program benefited you and your company? Have you been promoted since you began the program?

I have not been promoted, but I have moved to a new job. I was previously employed in the private sector, and now I work in the Office of the Indiana Governor. I worked my way into the Governor’s Office by serving as a volunteer policy coordinator for the campaign last year, and it was during the campaign that the GEM program benefited me and the campaign (and, eventually, my new boss). The GEM program provided me with a deeper, broader understanding of the energy industry and the forces acting upon that industry. The program expanded my vocabulary and gave me confidence that I knew the issues, their complexity, and their possible solutions. As a policy coordinator, I had to sift through a lot of facts and data, not to mention opinions of an array of stakeholders who wanted to help shape the future governor’s agenda. The GEM program helped me draw clear conclusions from the policy conversation and formulate a succinct agenda. Now, as Policy Director, I lean heavily on my GEM education as I determine the best policy advice to move Indiana’s energy industry forward.

What were some of your favorite things to do during cohort weekends?

Hands down: dancing at the Grizzly Rose. There are few places where I feel more at ease than in a lively country bar, and a couple of my cohort-mates and I enjoyed the atmosphere, music, and dance floor at the Rose. Aside from kicking up my heels, I enjoyed dinners at various restaurants and getting to know new friends over cold glasses of milk.

What are some of the things that you never forgot to bring to cohort weekends?

I always brought my swimming suit, running shoes, and books for the next term. I enjoyed the social time of each cohort, but I also treated the weekend like a business trip. With my schedule and family responsibilities, I needed to come out of each cohort weekend with the ball already rolling for the next term. I tried to maintain the same habits that I did back home, like working out, in order to get that ball moving.

Please share a story about GEM that will entertain other students.

I am not sure how entertaining this story is, but one of my favorite memories from the program came in London. I participated in the week-long trip to London to meet with British energy companies, think tanks, interest groups, and government officials. Aside from all the splendor that London has to offer to a tourist, my most memorable part of the trip took place on a Wednesday.

We began the day with a briefing by representatives from the British department on energy and climate change. The conversation centered around the inevitability of global climate change and the need to do something about it.

Next, we met with the Renewable Energy Foundation, which I expected to extol the virtues of renewable energy – quite the contrary. The Foundation’s briefing criticized the government’s climate change policies and argued that the cost-benefit analysis of the programs did not justify continuing.

Finally, that evening we attended a lecture by an economist who offered a tort liability solution to the climate change challenge. While his proposal faced long odds on every being implemented for numerous reasons, the conversation that his proposal sparked was tremendous. At the reception following the lecture, I found myself in a circle of British lawyers and the lecturer. The lawyers were adamant that his proposals would never work, but I (myself a lawyer as well) was struck by his out of the box thinking. He was truly original in his approach, and the debate was phenomenal.

So, in the course of one single day, we went from, “We must do something!” to, “These programs are too expensive,” to “What if we tried this?” The day provided an extraordinary procession of thought, and it carried over into the dinner conversation with my cohort-mates. It was a day I truly will never forget.

Why did you choose the GEM program at CU Denver?

I chose the GEM program because of its emphasis on the energy sector. I had started working toward my MBA six year prior to beginning the GEM program, but a variety of life moments caused me to put that pursuit on hold. I finally hit a point where I decided it was “now or never.” I was either going to finish the master’s degree or I was going to forget about it altogether. I did not want to be working on my degree when my children were in college themselves. However, I did not want to just simply finish the MBA. I wanted my studies to be focused on the energy industry. I was working in a company that was beginning to take on renewable energy projects, and my lifelong passions fell right in line with the company’s plans. I wanted my master degree to enhance the company’s pursuits and my personal passions. Other graduate business programs offered a class or two about sustainable business practices, but no other program offered the focus on the energy industry that GEM provides. That is what I wanted, and that is why I chose the GEM program.

Has GEM changed your perspective? If so, how so?

I don’t know that I would say GEM has “changed” my perspective. I would say it has “enhanced” and, perhaps, even “strengthened” my outlook. I certainly have a broader perspective of the energy industry and the challenges facing our country as we meet our energy demands in the future. The greatest effect I felt from GEM arose from the opportunity to engage in debates about public policy. The program gave me tools to put flesh on the bones of positions and perspectives I have held for some time, but lacked the knowledge to support my thoughts. My ability to articulate my thoughts was greatly enhanced, which strengthened my perspective as I debated others’ positions and considered their viewpoints.

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