On Nov. 6, Lewes resident Dan Schultz will wake up before sunrise. On any other day, he might be lacing up his running shoes, but on Election Day, Schultz has to make it to his assigned polling station at 6 a.m. to start setting up for the onslaught of people he is predicting will cast a vote this year.
Since Schultz and his wife, JoAnn, moved to Lewes full-time nearly 10 years ago, they have volunteered as poll workers each election cycle. “We haven’t done every election since we’ve been here, but we’ve done most of them,” he said.
Schultz shows up to his designated polling place at 6 a.m. to begin setting up. From 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., he said he is on his feet, helping people place their votes.
“Once you get there, you’re not supposed to leave the building,” he said. “It can be a long day.”
Volunteers take turns eating a quick lunch before they get back on their feet, he said. After the polls close, it’s another hour of breaking down equipment before he and his wife head home.
Schultz said he got involved in working at the polls because it seemed interesting. “It gives you a chance to talk to people,” he said.
Schultz also said he is typically stationed at his own polling place, so the experience is a chance for him to reconnect with his neighbors. “You know a lot of the people that come in to vote,” he said.
Schultz and his wife were stationed at Cape Henlopen High School during the Sept. 11 primary. He said they have also served at both Lewes fire halls.
Fire halls are his least-favorite places to work because they are often freezing in November. To add to the discomfort, the fire department has to answer calls throughout the day, which means the blare of a siren reverberates throughout the hall. It can make for an unpleasant 15-hour day.
But overall, Schultz said he enjoys the task. Sometimes, a bad situation makes for a good story in the end.
When Christine O’Donnell ran as a write-in candidate for Delaware’s U.S. Senate seat in 2006, Schultz said O’Donnell stood outside polling places handing out pencils. But voters were unclear about how to write-in O’Donnell’s name, Schultz said.
“They would go into the voting booth, and they would write on the machine,” he said. “We’d have to go get Fantastic and wipe it off.”
Schultz said some voters even opted for more than a pencil. “They were using Sharpies, which are very difficult to get off a plastic surface,” he said, smiling.
Schultz said volunteering at the polls is his way of giving back to the community. “It’s everybody’s civic duty to do something,” he said.
Schultz does more for his community than volunteer at the polls. For the last five years, he has also been president of Rolling Meadows Homeowners Association, where he said, “There’s always a lot to do.”
Before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, Schultz sealed the roads in Rolling Meadows to prepare them for storm. In the summertime, he said, he oversees maintenance of the community pool and clubhouse.
Recently, he said, a drunk driver came through the community and moved a 2,000-pound boulder from the median into the roadway, so Schultz had to have it removed. “That’s the kind of stuff that happens,” he said with a shrug.
Schultz might have running to thank for his ability to let things roll off his shoulders. “It makes you feel good,” he said.
Schultz runs five days a week and reserves one day for rest and another day for alternate training, such as biking or rowing.
A native of Baltimore, Schultz began running in 1978, when was approaching age 30. He said jokingly he suffered an early mid-life crisis at the time and resolved to get in shape.
He worked in Annapolis with an avid runner, and the two started running on lunch breaks.
Six months after he started running, Schultz ran his first marathon.
The Maryland race was freezing, Schultz said. At mile 15, it began to sleet; in the final 11 miles, participants ran through a snowstorm, he said.
When asked how he did, Schultz smiled and said, “I finished.”
From Baltimore, Schultz and his wife moved to Oklahoma, where they lived for 13 years. Schultz was a partner in an international accounting firm. He retired from the job in 1995, and the couple moved to Ohio, where he ran the state Auditor’s Office for eight years.
During that time, Schultz said he and JoAnn came to the Cape Region to attend a conference. The couple bought a home in Lewes in 2002, and moved in full-time in 2003.
Schultz said he and wife would rather enjoy the beach as passing scenery than as a place to plop down for the day. “We are not really beach-sitters,” he said. “We love to run on the boardwalk.”
Schultz said he enjoys the camaraderie shared by runners. “It’s a very social sport,” he said.
Now 63, Schultz has run a total of 15 marathons. Two weeks ago, he finished a marathon in Hartford, Conn.
JoAnn, a retired nurse, accompanies him to all the races. “She’s a walker,” he said.
The couple’s oldest son, who lives in Oklahoma City, is also a runner. “He just got accepted into his second Boston Marathon,” Schultz said.
The couple’s youngest son, a resident of St. Louis, Mo., held a world record for the Boston Marathon at age 18.
In January, Schultz ran Goofy's Challenge at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. – a half marathon on Saturday morning, followed by a full marathon on Sunday. Schultz said people showed up in droves to participate in one race or the other, but only about 5,000 people tried to do both. “It’s goofy to try to do it,” he said.
Schultz said the race begins at 6 a.m., and the weather is variable. “It can be 85 degrees or it can be freezing,” he said. “That’s the challenge.”
As with every race, Schultz said, “It’s more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge.”