DES MOINES | Iowa House Republicans selected Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer on Thursday to serve as their next speaker, the first woman who will hold that top leadership role.
The election of Upmeyer, a cardiology nurse practitioner in her seventh House term, also marked the first time that the Iowa Legislature will have women in top positions in both chambers. When Upmeyer takes over as House speaker, she will join Senate President Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, for the first female presiding-officer duo in the Iowa General Assembly’s history.
Upmeyer, who is from Clear Lake in northern Iowa, has served in the House since 2003 and was made majority leader in 2010. She said she hopes to live up to the example set by her late father, Delwyn Stromer, who was House speaker in the 1980s.
"I've never felt like there was a glass ceiling I needed to break," said Upmeyer. But she added, "It's my hope, and I know it's true, that there's a young lady out there somewhere that's going to say, 'I can do this too.'"
A District 54 representative who held the post of House majority leader since 2011, Upmeyer, 63, outpolled Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, in a secret ballot to win the support of her 57-member caucus. She said she looks forward to leading and promised to be fiscally prudent.
She will officially take over the role in January, after current Speaker Kraig Paulsen steps down.
"The priorities of the caucus haven't changed," Upmeyer said. "So making sure that we're living within our means and making sure we carry forward the agenda we set from last year."
Paulsen announced his plans to step down as speaker about two weeks ago. He plans to serve the remainder of his two-year term, which runs through 2016.
Republican Gov. Terry Branstad congratulated Upmeyer, saying in a news release that he looked forward to working with her.
House Democratic leader Mark Smith, of Marshalltown, criticized Upmeyer's record on education, saying in a statement that House Republicans made funding decisions that will leave "kids in crowded classrooms with outdated textbooks and old technology this fall."
Lawmakers did not approve funding for the 2016-2017 school year in the spring session, as required by law, and Democrats sought more funding for the upcoming year than Republicans.
Rep. Chris Hagenow, 43, of Windsor Heights, currently the House majority whip, was selected by his fellow House Republicans to serve as majority leader to run the day-to-day operation of the House and schedule bills for floor debate. The District 43 representative is currently in his fourth House term.
House Republicans also named Reps. Joel Fry of Osceola as House majority whip, Zach Nunn of Bondurant as assistant majority leader and Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley to remain as speaker pro tempore. Also, Reps. Lee Hein of Monticello, Jarad Klein of Keota and Walt Rogers of Cedar Falls will continue their current roles as assistant House leaders.
Rod Boshart of the Journal Des Moines Bureau contributed to this report.