Schellinger audio

  • Jim Schellinger
Age: 47
Title: President
Firm: CSO Architects, Indianapolis
Other: The South Bend, Ind., native attended architecture school at the University of Notre Dame and has worked at CSO since 1987.

    Credit: John Bragg

    Jim Schellinger Age: 47 Title: President Firm: CSO Architects, Indianapolis Other: The South Bend, Ind., native attended architecture school at the University of Notre Dame and has worked at CSO since 1987.

It's assumed today that politicians were trained as lawyers. What in your background made you consider the jump from architect to politician?

I grew up the sixth of eight kids in a working-class family with parents that taught us the importance of caring about other people. I worked my way through college on the second shift at a tool and die shop, grinding steel to help pay for my college education. I have built a successful architectural business. These experiences, understanding what the challenges are growing a small business, led me to the conclusion Indiana can and should be doing better.

What inspired you to become an architect?

When I was young, I was constantly drawing buildings, and I was always curious about spatial relationships. You grow up with four brothers sharing the same bedroom, you become aware of the importance of how to organize space.

What brought you to Indianapolis after you graduated from Notre Dame?

I got a job at Cole Associates, in South Bend, and they transferred me to Indianapolis. My first assignment was running blue lines for six months. Eventually, I learned of an opportunity at CSO.

Governor seems a pretty high entry-level position into politics, particularly since it would be only your third career move. Did you consider school board or something more modest first?

No. Being a governor of a state or mayor of a city is very similar to being the president of a company. The guiding principles that have led our firm to success will be the same that will lead our state to success. When I became president of CSO Architects in 1996, I worked hard to give everybody a seat at the table. We do that as architects. We work with very diverse groups of people: site engineers, structural engineers and mechanical engineers and electrical engineers, and people that specialize in technology or life safety. We bring them together; we work toward the good of the whole to make sure that the end product is representative of everybody's expertise, knowledge, and input.

If you become governor of Indiana in November, do you expect to remain involved in your architecture firm?

No. It will be a full-time job being governor of Indiana. When I win the primary, I am going to take a leave of absence. Then, when I win in November, I would sever ties with the firm.

There are a few pockets of architectural interest in the Hoosier state. Columbus and New Harmony come immediately to mind. Unlike neighboring Ohio, where many avant-garde practitioners have built in recent decades, Indiana seems pretty mainstream. Will that change if you become governor?

My influence from the governor's office is going to be trying to improve education, to stand up for the rights of working men and women, to help grow and preserve our working families, and to create jobs throughout our state, to resolve our property tax crisis, to work hard to get health insurance for the 800,000 Hoosiers who do not have it, and to protect our environment. Our firm is one of the leading firms in Indiana in terms of having LEED accredited professionals on our staff. The architects in our state do a fine job, and I will be there to support them when I can.

Do you think more architects should become politically involved?

Architects are specially equipped to combine the left brain with the right brain and to bring people together. That gives us a unique ability to look at things from all sides. For architects that have good communication skills, we bring people together with different views toward a better solution. We need good government because government is the one entity that makes sure no one gets left behind. My involvement—because I was raising a family and building a business—was to support good people. Slowly, I became involved in things and gained respect for my leadership skills outside of architecture.