U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman

A congressman gets real

U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, photography by Neal Bruns

From roofing houses in the hot Texas sun with his grandfather to traversing long rows of seed corn, soybeans and green beans in LaGrange County, Marlin Stutzman has shown he’s not afraid of hard work. Which is a good thing, as he’s the Republican U.S. Representative for the Third District of Indiana, which includes all of Allen County. Find out what angers him, what he wishes he could change about himself and where he plans to take his wife, Christy, for Valentine’s Day as we play 20 Questions with U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman.

1. How much of Washington needs to rub off on you to be effective for your Hoosier constituents?
My dad always said it’s not only what you know but who you know, and it’s combination of both in Washington.

2. What policy interests have you added to your priority list?
Monetary policy. The Federal Reserve, the banking system. Because money is power.

3. What keeps you awake at night?
The direction of our country and … terrorism in the world. There are people in the world who still want to do damage to the United States and our allies.

4. What is the most important vote you have cast in your Congressional career?
The debt ceiling votes. That’s one of my top priorities – to control the debt at the federal government level. Every time we raise the debt ceiling, the question I ask myself is, is this moving the needle? We’re now facing $18 trillion of debt that we already owe, and that doesn’t include future promises that are being made. For our country to be strong in the future for our children and grandchildren, we’ve got to control our federal budget, and it’s running away from us faster than we can deal with it.

5. What does your staff do that you can’t do without?
It would be the immigration issues that we deal with, from passports to visas to citizenship (issues). We deal with Medicare and Social Security issues that I just would not be able to stay on top of.

6. Where is your favorite place in Washington?
Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. It helps me put in perspective what he saw in our capital city and what was important to him was not primarily the government seat.

7. What are you reading these days?
“Good to Great” is the last book I finished. I’m in the middle of Mitch Daniels’ book about governing here in the state of Indiana. It’s interesting to see his perspective and his philosophy applied to governing here in the state.

8. Which do you enjoy more? Fundraising, campaigning or doing the work of a congressman?
Doing the work of a congressman, then campaigning and then fundraising, in that order. Campaigning and doing the work of a congressman, sometimes they just overlap because you’re talking with people (and) listening.

9. How do you spend your travel time between here and Washington?
Reading. Usually (I’m) reading notes from committees that met that previous week or committee work that I have to do the next week. The staff gives me a lot of reading they feel is important to know. Committee work (on issues such as) military operations to national security and then also what’s happening at home. I try to keep up to date as much as possible. Then there’s times I just sleep. I could always handle a little bit more (sleep).

10. As a farmer, you could benefit if marijuana is legalized. What do you think about the issue?
I don’t think it’s a good idea in the sense for recreational use. I think that the medical world and science need to be able to determine what is really the best use for marijuana in the medical field.

11. So you’re open to the possibility of legalizing marijuana for medical use?
There’s other drugs we use now, a whole variety of them, that are not healthy by themselves, but if they (are) controlled and regulated in an appropriate way under supervision then I think it’s something worth looking at. So I’m open to that.

12. Where do you think of GMOs (genetically modified organisms)?
GMOs, like a lot of things in research and development, can be a very helpful, useful tool, and it also could be something we have to be very cautious with. And so again that’s where science and experimenting and time will prove out what is helpful and what is not. GMOs have not caused a single death that I am aware of or seed corn companies are aware of, but I can tell they are becoming much more sensitive to that issue. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We want healthy food and healthy lifestyles for people.

13. What are your usual Valentine’s Day plans with your wife?
If I’m not in session, I usually try to always take her to her favorite restaurant, Olive Garden or Takaoka (or) … Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. We usually go out for a nice dinner, and I always try to get her flowers, and it depends on the year whether I get her chocolate. She’s a runner, so I try not to break her efforts that way.

14. Does your mind wander now to different topics while you’re driving or doing farm chores?
Unfortunately yes. But … doing farm work, whether it’s mowing the yard or combining, that’s my thinking time and it’s when I can kind of let go of some of the daily things we deal with and take a step back and look at the big picture.

15. What’s your secret ambition?
I always wanted to play for the Chicago Cubs.

16. What can’t you live without?
My Blackberry. I’m trying to transition to an iPhone.

17. What makes you see red?
When I see people being taken advantage of. I don’t like bullies or people who run over other people. I’ve felt that I’ve been the underdog, so when the underdog wins, that’s something to be excited about. When the underdog is beaten by rules that benefit someone else, that’s just wrong.

18. If there’s something you could change about yourself, what would it be?
I always wanted to be a little taller, but I’m just right because Christy is 5-foot, 1-inch, and she’s perfect for me. I’m very content with who I am. I’m always wanting to strive to do better and live a life that’s honoring to God.

19. Who was your favorite teacher?
Mrs. Crystal Updike. She taught (me) sixth grade, diligence and hard work and discipline.

20. Is the glass half-empty or half-full?
Half full. We live in the greatest country in the world. You achieve more by being optimistic than pessimistic.

First appeared in the February 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.


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