Nancy Schulz is many things to many people. We know her first and foremost as District 3 commissioner on the Newton County Board of Commissioners. The lone female voice, she’s serving her second four-year term.
She’s a wife, mother of two, and comptroller at The Oaks Golf Course, where she and husband Dick are majority partners. With a B.S. in nursing and a master’s as a nurse practitioner, she’s taught nursing, but she’s also been a public health nurse for more than 30 years, 21 of them with the Newton County Health Department in women’s health.
She is passionate about public schools and intently focused on economic development and strategic planning at the commission. She is fearless when opposing what she believes to be wrong policies, even if she loses the argument.
But there’s something more you may not know about this woman. She’s addicted — to exercise, that is. She makes active exercise part of her schedule every single day that rolls around.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, she works out with weights with trainer Jaime Robtison at Square Fit. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she takes ballet lessons at the Covington Regional Ballet. And she power-walks around town the other days with pal Buncie Lanners.
"We solve all the world’s problems. It’s better than therapy," she says with a laugh.
When working at home, she sits on a balance ball to strengthen her core and, thus, her balance, increasingly important as we age.
"It’s dangerous to sit more than two hours at a time," she says.
"It can lead to circulation problems, diabetes and cardiovascular issues. Being sedentary is the worst thing you can do to yourself."
Schulz makes it a point to get up and move around once an hour, walking up and down stairs, for example.
"I just don’t feel like myself if I don’t exercise," she continues. "But when I do, I sleep better, I think better, and I’m happier because of all those endorphins. I took a two-hour dance class last week, and when I finished, I felt like I could take on the world! I felt younger and invigorated and exhilarated!"
Part of Schulz’s commitment to exercise is because she’s been diagnosed with osteopenia, common to women as early as their 40s, a condition that leads to bone-thinning osteoporosis, with which her mother suffers. Weight-bearing exercise is the best way to prevent bone loss and weakening, she explains.
But she was bitten by the exercise bug — specifically ballet — at an early age in Nashville, Tenn., where she grew up. Her mother played the piano for dance classes, so naturally Schulz ended up in the classes.
She even cherished the idea of a life in the performing arts until she was about 16. She tried out for parts at Opryland, but the roles went mainly to tap dancers, and she wasn’t one.
Nevertheless, she found ballet classes wherever she and Dick moved, but took a few years off when her children were small. In a class at the Ruth Mitchell Dance Company in Atlanta some years ago, she took inspiration from a former professional ballerina, who, at 68 years old, was still a student.
"I think about her all the time," Schulz says.
On a Monday night, she is lined up at a double line of ballet barres in a classroom where floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the eastern side of the square. Mirrors span one wall.
Schulz, the tall one with short, cropped blonde hair, is turned out just like her smaller classmates, most of whose long locks are balled into tight knots at the tops of their heads.
They all wear leotards — black, navy or periwinkle — pink tights, and soft, flat ballet shoes. Dancing is about discipline as much as anything, and some of the 11 pre-teens work hard to avoid wiggling and giggling. It takes focus and attention to hear the words of instructor Peter Swann over the din of music from another classroom.
The class begins with stretching at the barre or on the floor. The students lean way over and reach past toes or angle themselves into cat-like poses.
Schulz does a 180-degree bend from the waist that would make an Episcopal priest pleased. She forces herself down into a split on the floor that would impress the Cirque du Soleil. At the barre, she stands ramrod straight until Swann calls for a plié, a relevé, a demi-plié.
The focus demanded by the routines is Sphinx-like, and for Schulz, the businesswoman, nurse and elected official, it is stress-relieving to be able to think of nothing else but the moment she is in.
Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.