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Schulz Duo Doing Good

Staying involved with their city government and community is paramount for Kurt and Gretchen Schulz, married for more than 40 years.

Kurt and Gretchen Schulz have their hands in just about everything in , Ga. And, lately, the couple have their hands in dirt.

No, not of the political nature that some fear has come to re-describe local politics, but actual dirt -- the kind that grows stuff.

She, a nutritious foodie at heart, and he, a guy good at designing things, have decided it's time Snellville have a place where people can grow their own food. It's not only a way of staying healthy, but also a way of saving money.

Although it would seem that a city where most households earn more than $70,000 a year don't even need a . The Schulz duo say it's more about promoting healthy habits than anything else.

"I've always had a real interest, I guess, or a passion for childhood nutrition," said Gretchen Schulz, who previously worked on school nutrition for the state Department of Education. "And, helping kids to develop healthy eating habits at an early age, I think that's so important.

"Because once you get to be our age, you don't really change what you've been doing for so long."

The garden is in its infancy now, but the couple have been able to bring on volunteers with specific expertise to really get the ball rolling. City officials are already touting it a success.

"It will certainly be something that will make us proud," City Councilman Tom Witts, a long-time Snellville resident, has said. "That I assure you."

The garden will be located at T.W. Briscoe Park, open to anyone who wants to participate. The Schulzes are also hoping to build an outside classroom, of sorts, where children's groups might come to learn about going green.

Having Their Say

Even before Kurt and Gretchen Schulz set their sights on a community garden, they were already busy having their say about plans for Snellville's future.

It's almost hard to believe, the couple in their 60s wondered if they'd be challenged enough after retiring. They fixed those notions, however. They are regulars at council meetings, and Kurt Schulz was actually a council member for a while in the 1990s.

In those days, he was particularly peeved about the lack of ordinances for landscaping, or design aesthetic concerns. And, after forming a group to put together proposed ordinances, which were eventually approved, Schulz decided to run for a city council seat.

"I had gotten very interested in city politics," he said. "The more I got involved, the more I felt I wanted to be part of the governing body."

Emmett Clower was mayor back then, and Schulz remembers the whole time being "very contentious." He added: "We disagreed on a good bit of things."

It didn't keep him from voicing his opinions, despite eventually stepping out of the limelight in the mid-1990s due to a heart attack. By then, however, he thought other people should have their say. A daughter also became a .

"We just felt like we needed to stay away and not be really involved in the council meetings," Gretchen Schulz said.

Farmers' Market and Beyond

But, once the daughter left for another job in the mid-to-late 2000s, the duo was back it. And, by 2010 they were planning the city's first .

"We were hopeful at the time that if we could get just get 12 or 15 good vendors to start with, we'd be pleased," Gretchen Schulz said. "And, as it turned out, we had more than 50 vendors throughout the years.

"It turned out to be far more successful in the first year than we ever thought."

In addition to helping run the city's farmers' market, the Schulzes also volunteer at Snellville Tourism and Trade, an umbrella organization of sorts for city events. Gretchen Schulz has been an executive board member there.

Sure, the duo could just relax in their retirement years, play with their grandchildren, and go on vacations. And, to be clear, they do those things, too. But, staying involved with the city is a clear priority.

Snellville's recent showed that. A lot of misinformation, they said, was swirling about, and people have to know who their voting for and what's going on.

"There's nothing more important than politics at your local level, really," Kurt Schulz said. "We're all affected greatly by the national scene, but ... the local level, that affects you directly."

Joy L. Woodson January 27, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Thanks to Kurt and Gretchen for welcoming me into their home.

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