As Ohio struggled with high unemployment and a decline in education funding, and contemplated raising property taxes to close budget gaps, Heather Bishoff thought she could help her state navigate what looked to her like a perfect storm.
So last year, Ms. Bishoff, co-owner of The Bishoff Financial Group Inc. in Worthington, decided to run for the state Legislature. She pulled off an upset, winning as a Democrat in a Republican-majority district. Now that she's in the capitol, she can utilize some of the skills she developed in the investment advice business.
Ohio “needed to take into consideration the short-, medium- and long-term impact of the decisions we're making — something financial planners do every day,” Ms. Bishoff said at the Financial Services Institute Inc.'s Financial Advisor Summit in Washington today. “At the end of the day, we're there to be good stewards of Ohians' money.”
While representing a district of 125,000 people, Ms. Bishoff continues to run the operations side of her firm. Her husband, Wm. Eric Bishoff, is the branch manager and handles the client work.
She's available to her constituents at all times, while juggling state duties with business obligations. Staying connected to her work gives her a unique perspective among legislators.
“I want to be reminded of the challenge of running a business,” Ms. Bishoff said. “That's what I bring to the table at the statehouse.”
At the FSI session, she encouraged other financial advisers to run for office. One of the big drawbacks that keeps many of them out of the arena is the danger of turning off clients by participating in politics.
Ms. Bishoff and her husband are confident that their firm has not suffered.
“The clients that we have, they know us,” Ms. Bishoff said. “We care about them. They care about us. It's kind of like we're an extended family. I don't think we've lost clients because of campaign stuff.”
Still, Mr. Bishoff had some concerns, even though he encouraged his wife to run, because about 98% of their clientele is Republican. Prospective clients would probably lean right, too.
He heard from people who said that they hadn't voted Democratic or made campaign contributions to Democrats. But the tide began to turn after they interacted with Ms. Bishoff.
“When they got to meet her and talk to her, it's not, 'She's a Democrat'; it's, 'She's a small-business owner and she gets it,'” Mr. Bishoff said.
For Ms. Bishoff, it's not the politics of public life but the service that inspires her. She said it is rewarding to help constituents cut through the Ohio bureaucracy.
“It is the best customer service job I've ever had,” Ms. Bishoff said.
In politics, she prides herself on being a centrist while the country becomes more deeply divided along partisan lines.
“I don't want to be a politician; I want to be a legislator,” Ms. Bishoff said. “The silent majority — they're in the middle.”