Columbus City Council President Beth Augustine-Schulte was only in junior high when she got her introduction to city government by working as a public library page, preparing the organization for its big move into a new building in 1977.
“It was my very first job,” Augustine-Schulte recalled of the library’s move from a small space off 25th Avenue to a 14th Street location. “I was working there and helping move books and organizing things.”
Fast forward a few decades later to March 2021, Augustine-Schulte was undoubtedly proud as she witnessed that once-new library building being torn down to make way for the voter-approved Columbus Community Building, a hub that now houses the public library, City Hall, the Columbus Arts Council, a coffee shop, a soon-to-be-open children’s museum and more.
“That’s truly change. We say Columbus is the ‘City of Power and Progress,’ and it has been so neat to see all the progress,” Augustine-Schulte said. “Progress is going on all the time. Unfortunately, it’s progress people are not always aware of.”
(ABOUT THE PHOTO: Columbus City Council President Beth Augustine-Schulte sits in her chair on the council podium on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in the Community Room/Council Chamber on the third floor of the Columbus Community Building. Augustine-Schulte announced her resignation from the City Council on Monday.)
Since filling an unexpired term on the City Council representing the First Ward in 2009, Augustine-Schulte has been reelected four times (2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022), playing a key role in efforts throughout town. Among them have been the construction of the Community Building and the recent police and fire department headquarters, as well as the viaducts on 3rd, 12th and 33rd avenues.
Yet there are countless little things, such as the installation of scoreboards in Pawnee Park, the addition of the 33rd Avenue viaduct uplighting feature and the necessary upgrades made to the Columbus dike system, that also stick out to Augustine-Schulte.
“All those things are signs of progress,” she insists.
But after 14 years of serving in the public role, Augustine-Schulte announced during the Nov. 6 Columbus City Council meeting she’ll be resigning from her elected position. She’s moving out of her ward into an area home where she and her husband, David, will have more space for their creative hobbies and when their growing family comes to visit.
“Having the opportunity to be of service to people and the community as a whole has been one of my favorite things about being on the City Council. I have really enjoyed being that liaison between citizens and City staff, helping people and addressing their concerns,” Augustine-Schulte said. “This was not easy because I have loved it …”
Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley has known Augustine-Schulte for years, having served with her on council before being elected mayor in 2016. He has high praise for her.
“Beth has been an asset to the City of Columbus and she’ll be missed,” he assured. “I think she’s done a really nice job. We’ve done so much in the last 15 years, it’s amazing. You take a drive around Columbus and see what’s going on, and she can say proudly she’s been part of it.”
Bulkley noted how Augustine-Schulte played an instrumental role in overhauling and refining the evaluation process for the city administrator, which made things better for all involved.
But what he says is her greatest strength is her character.
“She has always shown compassion for the people she represents and is always willing to look at what was involved in a decision-making process,” Bulkley said, noting her involvement with other community efforts throughout the years.”
Despite all her years of serving on council, Augustine-Schulte never had the desire to be on the Columbus City Council. In fact, she humorously can remember one of her first interactions with local city government as a constituent with a complaint.
“Years ago, I wrote an email to the council complaining and (former) Councilman John Lohr responded and told me I should consider running for council sometime,” she said. “I will admit when I voiced those concerns, I was pretty ignorant about city government. So, I’m sure I sounded like someone who voiced and complained without having any information to substantiate my complaint.”
But in 2009, it was brought to the St. Bonaventure Elementary School teacher’s attention that there was an opening to fill a First Ward seat on the Columbus City Council. She sought the advice of her friend Sandra Riley, who served on the council from December 1988 to November 1996, and soon submitted an application to be considered for the appointment to fill the unexpired term.
“(Sandra Riley’s) affirmation motivated me. And it’s kind of funny, but when I was interviewing with the mayor and the council members, Councilman Lohr brought up that email,” she said, with a laugh. “Not only did I have a clean slate, I don’t even know if I had a slate because I literally knew nothing. But I was excited to learn.”
Augustine-Schulte began attending meetings at the suggestion of then-Mayor Mike Moser to get a feel for how things went and rewatched older meetings on the City’s YouTube channel.
Years later, Augustine-Schulte said serving on the City Council has been an extremely rewarding experience. She praised City Administrator Tara Vasicek, as well as all of the current and former city staff and council members she has had the pleasure to work with during her tenure.
(ABOUT THE GRAPHIC: A map showing Ward 1.)
“It just seems like there is just this never-ending opportunity to learn and participate in changes going on in the city,” she said. “I’m always learning; there has always been something new to learn. So, I have loved seeing projects completed and learning along the way.”
Although she’ll be stepping away from city government, Augustine-Schulte will remain plenty busy. Besides continuing to teach at St. Bonaventure and exploring her love for the arts, she and her husband will be gearing up for their move. Between them, their blended family boasts seven adult children and nine grandchildren.
Family and her Catholic faith were driving forces while serving on the City Council. She said it’s important for anyone who serves in public office to not let their own or anyone else’s emotions sway them from considering the facts and making decisions that are for the good of the overall community.
“Be level-headed. People are going to like and not like your decisions,” she assured. “You’re always saying ‘no’ to someone and ‘yes’ to someone. You can’t make everyone happy.”
Vasicek said she has greatly appreciated Augustine-Schulte, calling her professional, kind and thoughtful with the community and City staff.
“She’s going to be missed. She was a fantastic member of the City Council,” Vasicek said. “What I’ve appreciated most about Beth is she has a great talent for gathering all of the facts, considering all of them even with various perspectives and then making well-thought-out decisions that are good for the majority.”
Augustine-Schulte has no immediate plans to get back into public office, though won’t rule out serving the community in some shape or form in the future. As a longtime educator and city council member, she said she hopes people can tell she has a servant’s heart.
“I wasn’t aware of how much I enjoy helping people,” she said. “If they (the public) would ever remember I was on the council, I would hope they say I was always a person who tried to practice her role with prudence, with respect for our citizens and a desire to help Columbus be the best it can be.”
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