By AMANDA K. PNACEK
He might use the campaign nickname “Average Joe,” but Joe Schriner is no ordinary guy—he’s running for president.
Yes, that’s President of the United States.
While running for president, Schriner, along with his wife, Liz, and their two children, Sarah and Joseph, is campaigning to bring social, economic and environmental problems to light in small towns across the country.
“We have a vision of changing the country at its roots, instead of putting Band-aids on symptoms,” the Bluffton, Ohio resident said.
Schriner’s bid for the top office in the country began during the 2000 election and continues now with a goal of winning in 2004. While he doesn’t have any concrete political experience—his background is in journalism and counseling—he has “common sense and connections with a lot of small town common sense people,” he said.
“I want to uncomplicate the heck out of this country,” Schriner said.
During the 2000 campaign, Schriner and his family traveled around the country in a 1974 Dodge van talking to people and gaining support. The 27,000-mile trip also included a bicycle tour of the Midwest.
Currently, Schriner’s route covers all of Ohio’s 88 counties. Along the campaign trail, the family stopped Monday in Fayette to hear from residents.
“When we go into towns, we look for people and projects that are making [the community] a better place,” Schriner said.
In Fayette, he interviewed Carla Green, clinical supervisor at Serenity Haven, an alcohol and drug treatment facility for women.
“As a politician, I would like to see a Serenity Haven in every county in the country,” Schriner said.
If people with drug and alcohol problems don’t get help, it leads to many problems, Schriner said, including a higher incidence of domestic violence, crime and death.
“The bottom line is we have a constellation of social problems that need to be dealt with at the roots,” he said. “A program like [Serenity Haven] is an excellent way to do that.”
Schriner also looks for people who are trying to help in underserved areas, including working with the poor, children or the environment.
“We’re running as concerned parents,” Schriner said. “As parents, we couldn’t just sit back and watch society go in the direction it’s going.”
If people want to deal with problems, they need to stop doing things that cause the problems, especially regarding environmental issues. So, Schriner promotes non-polluting technologies and also asks people to walk and bicycle more.
Schriner found one crusade for the environment in Nebraska City, Neb., where the town of 7,000 residents started an “urban forestry” project to plant 10,000 trees in the next ten years.
“What if every town in America started doing that?” Schriner asked.
Schriner hopes that people hear about grassroots projects and find inspiration to start their own. His goal is to plant as many seeds for ideas as possible, he said.
“We’re very serious,” Schriner said. “We’re intent on winning but for us it’s an uphill battle.”
The good news for this average Joe is that although he may not be in the White House, he’s spreading the word about simplifying life and solving the country’s problems.
The Road to Washington
Campaigning for president is hard work, especially without a team of highly paid professionals helping along the way.
Joe Schriner’s campaign is modest, to say the least. He is his own speech writer and public relations consultant. His wife, Liz, is campaign manager.
“We don’t have millions, so we do the best we can with what we have,” Schriner said.
The couple and their two children, Sarah, 6, and Joseph, 4, live in a 1975 Dodge van equipped with beds and a refrigerator.
“It’s a low budget campaign, so that’s our home,” Schriner said.
Family time is important to Schriner. Each morning, the family spends time in prayer. And while Schriner spends three to four hours campaigning, Liz home schools the children.
“We try to balance it so that the campaign never outweighs family time,” Schriner said.
Some of the campaign activities on the road include parades, whistle stop events where Schriner holds meetings in town squares, and visiting with residents in town cafés.– July 17, 2002