Iowa House Democrats elect Smith as minority leader

He expects to work with majority Republicans on areas of agreement

CEDAR RAPIDS – Rep. Mark Smith of Marshalltown was elected leader of the Iowa House Democratic Caucus Saturday.

Smith, 61, a seventh-term member of the House, succeeds Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines who resigned to take a position in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.

Smith has been an assistant minority leader. His committee assignments have included Administration and Rules, Environmental Protection, Ethics, Human Resources, Judiciary and Legislative Council.

Although their styles may differ, Smith said he plans to continue the work McCarthy was doing as the leader of the 47-member Democratic caucus.

McCarthy “led us through difficult times and brought us back to strong vocal minority,” Smith said. “I’ll try to build on the type of leadership Kevin has offered us and put my own style on things.”

His priority will be to “put forth the message of what we as Democrats stand for and the kinds of things we’re working for to build a strong middle class.”

He expects to work with majority Republicans on areas of agreement “and voice the concerns we have when we don’t.”

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said he's looking forward to working with Smith "and to build on the success of last session.”

A social worker, Smith is the director of Special Projects at the Substance Abuse Treatment Unit of Central Iowa. He likes to look at all the available research as he considers legislation.

“I like to understand the issues, look at all aspects of legislation, what moves the state forward and what I see as problematic,” he said.

Although he was challenged by for the leadership post by Rep. Rick Olson of Des Moines, Smith said the caucus is “committed to unity.”

“That’s how we have our voice heard,” he said.

Another priority for Smith will be to regain the majority in the House – a goal he called “within reach.”

Democrats had a “great caucus today about the future direction of the House Democratic caucus,” McCarthy said, adding, “Our caucus is united and strong.”

Smith was born and raised on his family’s farm near Osceola, is a graduate of Graceland College in Lamoni and earned a master’s in social work from the University of Iowa.

In his career, Smith has worked with troubled children and their families, treated substance abuse, directed services to the mentally ill, and made sure nursing homes provide quality care for the elderly. He was among the first to provide early mental health counseling to children through the schools. He’s called on to train substance abuse counselors and social workers.

Smith was the only member of the Iowa Legislature to work at the World Trade Center following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

He and his wife, Karen, have been married 26 years. They one adult daughter and he has two adult foster sons.

Smith is an avid bicyclist who has ridden numerous RAGBRAIs and bicycle treks in other states. He is past president of the Marshalltown Morning Optimist Club.Comments: (319 398-8375;

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