Young Blood

Page 4 of 10

Susan Polis Schutz, Polis's mom, couldn't have said it better herself -- but when it comes to this profile, she keeps her lips zipped. She's released a new book through the Schutzes' Blue Mountain Arts publishing company titled Blue Mountain: Turning Dreams Into Reality, which tells the tale of her various personal and business travails and triumphs. Many of these adventures directly involved Jared, but she didn't respond to multiple interview requests -- even those passed along by her son. "My mother doesn't do many interviews," Polis says.

Schutz takes as offbeat an approach to autobiography as she does to book publicity. In Blue Mountain, she juxtaposes her softer qualities, epitomized by the extremely dewy, sentimental verse that turned her greeting-card company into a left-field success, with the steel it took to file lawsuits against two corporate behemoths, Hallmark and Microsoft. (Blue Mountain Arts got the best of Hallmark in a trial over alleged copyright infringement during the '80s; the Microsoft matter fell by the wayside after the Schutzes sold Bluemountain.com in 1999.) Along the way, she enthuses about her family, but the only one of her three children she specifically names in the text is Jared. She did so, she writes, because Polis has "chosen to go into a career of public service, and his name is well known," whereas his siblings "are people with the right to have a private life, and I don't want to invade that."

Susan is certainly important to Polis. In the late '90s, he changed his name from Jared Polis Schutz to Jared Schutz Polis "to honor my mother's maiden name, and because I like it better," he maintains. The swap wasn't intended as a slight to his father, because "Schutz is still in my name," and, as a bonus, it served as an excuse to stage a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society that netted $40,000 in contributions.

Switching a moniker for charity makes perfect sense in Polis's world, where attending posh private institutions like San Diego's La Jolla County Day School, as he did, doesn't prevent someone from becoming a champion of public education. In Blue Mountain, Susan traces his do-gooder streak to his eleventh year, when "he attended a city council meeting and gave a spontaneous, passionate speech about saving a canyon. Because of his speech, the members voted to save the canyon and Jared realized that one person can influence decisions that affect the lives of people. From that moment on, he knew he wanted to be a public servant when he grew up." After expressing her confidence that Jared's Board of Education gig "will not be his last elected position," she prints a poem she wrote in his honor:

I am so happy
with the direction
that your life
is taking you
Your decisions and actions
are noble and intelligent
I often think about
how you were the same way
when you were a little boy
I hope that you remain strong and in control
of your life forever
Sometimes you will make mistakes
and because you take risks
you will have your share of opponents
I want you to know
that at all times
the proudest mother in the world
is always here
to encourage you
to understand you
to talk with you
to support you
and to love you forever

On May 12, Polis's 29th birthday, Susan finds another way to express her affection for her firstborn. To brighten up a day when he's slated to oversee an eight-hour Board of Education work session at the state's Department of Education building, she sends him a cake. A big cake.

Festivities in the boardroom take a while to get under way. At the outset, the main person who happy-birthdays Polis is Karen Gerwitz, the director of state board relations. A couple of folks chime in, but for the most part, the other boardmembers -- fellow Democrats Christine Baca, Evie Hudak and D. Rico Munn, and Republicans Randy DeHoff, Clair Orr, Pamela Jo Suckla and Peggie Littleton -- seem focused on the task at hand. They gather a few items from a breakfast spread near where the still-boxed cake sits before joining Commissioner of Education William Moloney at a series of tables and getting to work.

The agenda is crowded with reports by DOE staffers and a presentation by principal Lawrence Hernandez, who outlines how he turned Cesar Chavez Academy, a charter school in Pueblo whose student body is three-quarters Hispanic, into a statewide role model with steadily improving test scores. Boardmembers are consistently polite to everyone, and because no particularly divisive items are up for debate, chairman Polis, wearing a blue blazer, a collarless burgundy shirt and prescription glasses that add a few years to his appearance, isn't stuck playing referee. He keeps things moving in a gentle way and is attentive during all of the presentations, frequently asking questions for clarification. Even so, sitting in place for long periods is difficult for him. He's a foot-tapper and a cuticle-chewer; he gnaws on one finger like it's an overcooked ear of corn. There's also his propensity for facial twitches, which become more intense as the clock's hands turn. Tic, tic, tic.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts