One of the most dynamic and liberal newcomers to the U.S. Congress - the first openly gay candidate to be elected as a freshman - is a son of La Jolla.
Jared Polis-Schutz, 33, an entrepreneur who created San Diego-based Proflowers.com and more than a dozen other companies, was elected Nov. 4 to represent Colorado’s overwhelmingly Democratic 2nd Congressional District. The district spans the valley encompassing Denver’s northwestern suburban communities to the uninhabited peaks of the Continental Divide.
The last La Jollan to win election to Congress was Lynn Schenk.
Although he was born in Boulder, Polis-Schutz spent his boyhood and teen years living with his parents and two siblings in La Jolla’s Mt. Soledad neighborhood. He explored San Diego’s urban canyons, took sailing lessons on Mission Bay and worked on a suntan at local beaches.
“It was a great place to grow up,” he said.
His parents, artist Stephen Schutz and poet Susan Polis Schutz, are the founders of Blue Mountain Arts Inc., which publishes cards, books, calendars, prints and other gift items. The couple became famous during a protracted legal battle with Hallmark greeting cards, ultimately prevailing in a landmark copyright infringement lawsuit.
His parents were also activists in the anti-Vietnam War movement during the 1960s and ‘70s, and they instilled in their oldest son a sense of social responsibility.
“I grew up in a culture where it’s ingrained in you to take responsibility to make the world a better place and to give back to society,” he said.
While attending La Jolla Country Day School from kindergarten through high school, Jared won acting roles in two school plays, played on the junior varsity and varsity baseball teams and impressed his teachers with his intelligence and self-confidence.
“He was a highly motivated, driven student who was very interested in politics and government,” recalled Jerry Flieschhacker, who had Jared in his advanced-placement U.S. history course. “Among the teachers and administrators, we used to joke that Jared would become a congressman before he was 30.”
Under an accelerated course schedule, he was able to graduate from high school in three years and went on to get a degree from Princeton.
While still in high school, Jared honed his business skills by buying surplus metal from the military and re-selling it to recycling firms and foundries throughout the U.S. Teachers remember overhearing him on the telephone making arrangements for trucks to transport the metals.
During his teen years, he also launched his political career as a volunteer for numerous Democratic candidates.
Former San Diego Councilwoman Valerie Stallings remembers how a teenaged Jared introduced himself at one of her political rallies. He promised to help raise money for her campaign, and surprised her by following through and hosting a series of fundraisers.
“There was something special about him from the get-go. You could tell he was going to go somewhere,” Stallings said.
Patrick Kruer, a former Democratic Party activist who is now chairman of the California Coastal Commission, said Jared was always politically precocious.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a smarter person than Jared,” said Kruer, a resident of Rancho Santa Fe. “You watch. He’s going to go a long way and he will get there fast.”