HUDSON, Wis. – This year, Wisconsin attorney, Shelly Tomtschik, decided to step up and run for her district’s county board. She is running unopposed for her St. Croix county board seat in an election set for April 7. She is also a member of the Pagan community.
The Wild Hunt recently caught up with Shelly to chat about the political position she’s running for, her personal spirituality, and the juncture between spirituality and political life.
TWH: Welcome to The Wild Hunt, Shelly. What is the position you are running for and what prompted you to do so?
Tomtschik: I am running for county board, a non-partisan office. I was interested because I like to see the inner workings of how our government is run, whether on a smaller scale like county board or following the presidential hopefuls. I live and work in the community, and have a sense of local issues and needs, but I will be much more informed when it’s part of my role. When informed, you can make good decisions for the betterment of everyone we live with.
TWH: As a member of the county board, what sort of duties will you have?
Tomtschik: The board has committees on different issues: transportation, administration, county programs for the court system and family services. I’d be on committees to discuss and formulate plans for addressing any issues that the county is facing.
TWH: What prompted you to run for the county board?
Tomtschik: I have worked in both child welfare and the criminal justice system. I am aware of the issues facing our community, and the greater communities surrounding us. Living in the community, I can see other issues that a community would need to address, like roads, parks, and trails. I’ve got a good background of knowledge and an ability to objectively listen to differing views so that, together, the other board members and I can make decisions to have the county make favorable progress for both new programs and regular maintenance.
TWH: What is your spiritual practice and general outlook?
Tomtschik: I am in a coven, and practice witchcraft. My practice includes ancestor and deity honoring, spell work, and continually delving into new subject areas. Some of my preferred areas of research and practice include herbalism, journeying, and holding space for the dying.
TWH: How do you see your spirituality tying into running for a public office position?
Tomtschik: Part of my spirituality is service to the community. I work in public service and this position would allow me to extend that reach.
TWH: How do you feel your spirituality will impact your role on the county board?
Tomtschik: My ethics and morals guide me, just as with hopefully anyone else. I haven’t thought much of how the position would affect my spirituality on an individual level, though I do not doubt that having a Pagan in office will be bothersome to those with less accepting religious views.
TWH: How out of the “broom closet” are you with your community and how accepting have they been with what they know?
Tomtschik: I am involved in spiritual communities around the extended Twin Cities area, though I don’t often speak of my spirituality or practices with non-practicing friends. That being said, my friends and office mates are aware that I am Pagan. I am not so open that it’s something everyone who knows me knows my spiritual practices, but I don’t hide in either.
I wouldn’t at all say that I’m in the broom closet, but I don’t run on a platform of religion. It bothers me when anyone does that because it doesn’t speak to what you are about. I wouldn’t speculate on what people may feel about it. I’m sure there are those who are close-minded and not accepting, but probably others who don’t care.
TWH: Any advice to others who are wanting to positively impact their community by running for office while being openly Pagan or coming out openly with your spirituality?
Tomtschik: When deciding to run for an office, it’s the issues you’d need to focus on regardless of religion. Obviously, there are many who chose to run based on a platform of religious ideology. When I look at candidates, I have looked past the label to see if the ideas are worth supporting and whether I want to give that candidate my vote. If considering running for office, inform other voters as to why they would want to invest in you with their votes. I don’t bring religion into the discussion, but if it’s asked directly then I would be forthcoming and willing to discuss. People want to know how or why to connect with your message. Either they will be willing to listen, or just want to judge. If they only want to judge you, accept that not everyone will be like-minded and keep moving.