New regent to focus on learning his role before taking action

WSU alumnus, Amazon executive began appointment July 1; plans to bring expertise to university



John Schoettler, vice president for Global Real Estate and Facilities at Amazon and member of the WSU Board of Regents, said his prior job experience will help him in his new role as regent.

CHERYL AARNIO, Evergreen reporter

A WSU alumnus and Amazon executive has been appointed to the university’s Board of Regents.

John Schoettler, vice president for Global Real Estate and Facilities at Amazon, was appointed to the position by Gov. Jay Inslee. He started his appointment July 1.

“I think that Washington State University and Governor Inslee saw a unique synergy between Amazon and the university and also my unique skill set in terms of real estate and the built environment and physical structures,” Schoettler said.

Schoettler said he leads the Amazon team that oversees corporate office space. Globally, he has helped expand these offices to over 40 million square feet. He also managed 3-5 million square feet of property when he worked for Unico Properties before moving to Amazon.

On the Board of Regents, he will be part of the Institutional Infrastructure Committee. He said he does not yet know what he will be doing on the committee, but he will learn what WSU needs and then work to fix the problems.

Heather Redman, Board of Regents member, said Schoettler will add expertise of real estate and facilities to the board. WSU has plenty of facilities and real estate, including campuses, classrooms and extension centers. She said it will be valuable to include somebody on the board who thinks about how to make students and faculty members in those facilities productive and happy.

A few WSU officials and regents approached Schoettler around two years ago to see whether he would be interested in being a member of the board, he said.

“To be honest with you, I never considered myself to be of regent quality,” he said.

Schoettler said he was chair of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce from 2015-2016 and has been involved on the Downtown Seattle Association’s board and executive committee.

Redman said Schoettler has influenced Washington State with his work, both in the community and at Amazon, so he will be able to bring that commitment to WSU.

When WSU President Kirk Schulz approached Schoettler, Schulz thought there may be some opportunities between WSU and Amazon, although Schoettler said he does not know what those opportunities might be.

“I think my first role [as regent] is to really just be a sponge and try to soak up as much as I possibly can and try to understand what some of the major issues are facing the university,” Schoettler said.

Once he knows what he needs to focus on as a regent, he said he will be able to come up with a way he can do something meaningful for WSU in the long-term.

“He is somebody who plans for the future and tries to imagine kind of where we will want to be in five, 10, 20 years,” Redman said.

Even though he is a senior leader at Amazon, Schoettler said he wants to be able to focus on his position as a regent. He will work to make sure his team at Amazon does not have to rely on him for everything. Additionally, the Board of Regents does not meet often so that will not be a problem for his schedule, he said.

When it comes to informing himself on university issues he will need to know about as regent, he said he is a curious person who wants to learn.

“I would not have done this had I not thought I would be able to give it my full attention because I don’t think it’s wise ever to volunteer for something and only show up in name only,” Schoettler said. “I think you have to be in the room and a voice in the room in order to be truly effective.”