Get to know Vice President Patrick Skarr in the final installment of our “Intern Interviews with Maggie Gorman” series!
Watch the video above or keep reading to find out why he got into this line of work, what he would be doing if he weren’t working at Culloton + Bauer Luce and more.
Maggie Gorman: What degrees have you achieved and where have you earned them from?
Patrick Skarr: I went to North Central College and studied political science and business management on the advice of, at the time, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who said, “If you want to be successful in business, you need to understand the business of government.” So, I took that to heart and studied both political science and business.
Maggie Gorman: What were some of your work experiences prior to joining Culloton + Bauer Luce?
Patrick Skarr: I spent my entire formative years working in the Chamber of Commerce in Naperville. It was an opportunity that started for me as a high school intern, and I just really enjoyed it. The Chamber was the premier suburban business advocacy organization and it gave me the chance to work with business owners, entrepreneurs and executives of every size and sector and on a variety of issues ranging from hyper-vocal issues to taking part in national and international coalitions on policy. So, it was quite informative and that experience of working together with different business owners whose interests are different, working together with the community, working with the media and working with elected officials was a chance to really get that experience of what does it mean to be running campaigns? What does it mean to be in the heart of a community conversation? Those lessons and relationships to this day, I reflect on.
Maggie Gorman: What makes Culloton + Bauer Luce stand out against other firms for clients?
Patrick Skarr: What really separates everyone at Culloton + Bauer Luce is our focus on finding solutions for our clients. Almost anyone can issue a press release or come up with a social media post, which is really a tactic. What really is a trait of working with anyone on our team is that we take a step back and really focus on the strategy because you can’t solve a crisis issue, you can’t win a public affairs campaign, you can’t win a referendum if you have a flawed strategy. It’ll either come back or it won’t be successful, and it will instead make the problem worse sometimes. And so, what really separates our team, and it starts with Dennis and Natalie and their collective decades of experience working with the highest profile issues, is that you have to have a successful strategy. And that’s really what we focus on and a lot of times what we’ll do is we’ll work alongside various executives, lobbyists or lawyers in the process as well as community members. And it’s really bringing together everyone’s perspective and asking, “Well how does this make it part of the solution?” And that’s what I think really separates us, is we really know the media, we really know communications, I like to think we are good at it. But we’re also really good at solving problems and helping clients be stronger for what they go through by the time they are done working with us.
Maggie Gorman: Why did you decide to get into the line of work that you are doing now?
Patrick Skarr: I am a successful graduate of no career planning. I did spend my younger years working at a Chamber of Commerce and really flexing a lot of different skills. Then I happened to get to know Dennis, who was a member of ours. He and I went out to breakfast a couple of times and I recruited him to a political action committee that I helped found when I was a teenager. It was great. It was just really a chance to work alongside someone I had a lot of respect for, and so I ended up coming to Culloton + Bauer Luce as soon as the firm had been incorporated and have enjoyed my many years here. It has been a great learning experience, great opportunity, and I really am thankful for all the clients we’ve had a chance to work with.
Maggie Gorman: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working at Culloton + Bauer Luce?
Patrick Skarr: Wow, that’s a tough question. I have a suspicion that if I was not working at Culloton + Bauer Luce, I would be somewhere else, maybe in the thick of things behind the scenes. Maybe working with the trade association or something like that. Or, if I had become incredibly lucky, I would be on a beach in Belize practicing the Caribbean lifestyle.
Maggie Gorman: What can you be found doing in your free time?
Patrick Skarr: I am absolutely enthralled by government. Honestly, I always joke that it’s the cheapest form of free entertainment there is. They were streaming before anyone else was streaming and it was always free. And it’s commercial free. I have, just from a very young age, always enjoyed the art of politics, the art of policy making. And so I am known, even when I don’t have client issues pending, to be listening and observing the debates at the county or local level or the state houses or watching C-Span and catching up on some thrilling hearings just because I view that as a chance to really understand the issues that are at work and try to find something that could become something later. In this business, it’s what you know. The history is just as important as understanding the facts, and so is understanding how things percolate up to what could this potential solution be. I’m lucky because if you do what you love, it’s not really work. There’s nothing quite like the day or the evening your client is up for a vote and it’s a little bit of a rollercoaster and you’re not sure how it’s going to go. It’s always nice when you know you’re going to win because you’ve done your homework and gotten support. But there’s also those moments where that’s not possible and so the votes come in and there’s nothing quite like it and feeling that achievement for getting that done.
Maggie Gorman: Since we are a Chicago-based firm, everyone always wants to know: White Sox or Cubs?
Patrick Skarr: I’m clearly a Cubs fan. I think I have a picture there — I can’t point on Zoom very well — of Wrigley Field. My family and I are die-hard Cubs fans and having the chance to work at a firm associated with the Cubs is just an added benefit.
Maggie Gorman: This question is a little out of left field, but if your childhood had a smell, what would it be?
Patrick Skarr: I grew up in Iowa and there’s nothing quite like springtime out there, especially if you’re driving. The smell of just regrowth and the new season, a new crop season, or freshly cut grass or however you want to describe it. That’s kind of what I vividly always remember and something I always look forward to.
Did you know …
- I have been fortunate to have two life milestones occur in the Caribbean country of Belize. I got engaged and was later married on the beach in Ambergris Caye in the company of about 60 friends and family.
- Han Duck-soo, the former Prime Minister and Ambassador to the U.S. for the Republic of Korea, once said I was a “very good storyteller” after I regaled him and his phalanx of aides with stories about Naperville when I hosted him for dinner the night before a speaking engagement.