Ten terms later, Heaton still takes it two years at a time
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Dave Heaton has served two decades in the Iowa Legislature, but in a bid for an 11th term, the Mt. Pleasant resident faces something he has never encountered — opposition in the Republican primary.
Ralph Holmstrom of Mt. Pleasant will also be on the ballot for the House District 84 GOP nod.
Heaton ranks third in longevity in the lower chamber of the Legislature and has no plans of retiring.
“I have always taken it two years at a time and when I lose my enthusiasm to work on behalf of my constituents, then it is time to go home,” he said.
Don’t expect that anytime soon, though.
“It doesn’t really seem like 20 years,” he said. “You always are working with different things every session and each session brings new challenges. The years go by quickly.”
Recognized as one of the leaders in the legislature in the redesign of the state’s mental health delivery system, Heaton said there is still a lot of work to be done in that area.
“Now the challenge is the children (having access to adequate mental health services),” he explained. Heaton became involved in the mental health redesign a few years ago when there was talk of closing one of the state’s mental health institutes.
“I took a real interest in it because closing one of the institutes could have had a real economic impact on Mt. Pleasant (Mt. Pleasant has one of the state’s four mental health institutes),” he reflected. “I also wanted to make sure that mental-health services were available to all residents of the state.”
Heaton also is proud of the fiscal responsibility his fellow Republicans have shown in the House. “One of our major accomplishments the last four years was bringing fiscal discipline to the appropriation process,” he said, adding that four years ago the state was facing an $800-million deficit. However, by adhering to its principles, the House GOP was able to eliminate the deficit and the state, at the end of the 2014 session, has an $800 million surplus.
“Fiscal discretion allowed this to happen,” he explained. “Washington, D.C. should take note of these principles and apply them to its fiscal policies.”
Elaborating, Heaton said the four principles that have guided his party in its budgetary decisions include:
• We won’t spend any more money than we are taking in.
• We will not spend one-time money for on-going expenses.
• We will not intentionally underfund any entitlements.
• We will return unused funds to the taxpayers.
Switching gears, the 10-term legislator is also becoming involved in the area of disabilities, working on improving the access of services to the disabled.
“What I mean is that I want people with disabilities who work in the public workplace to be able to have a life as normal as possible and in some cases, live independently,” he stated.
Two other challenges have his interest — services to the elderly and addressing the need for a highly skilled workforce in Iowa.
“I would like to see us further develop a home health system to allow more seniors to live at home than live in an institutionalized setting.
“In education, the key to achieving the American dream is having the skills to achieve and excel in the workplace environment,” he continued. “Education at every level is so important. I believe very strongly that every child at risk should be able to read even if we need individual intervention. I am willing to pay for that.”
Heaton believes that children should learn to read by third grade and then read to learn after that. “If they don’t learn to read, they are at risk falling behind their classmates,” he said.
During the recent legislative sessions, the Legislature has committed over $200 million to fund K-12 education, gave an additional 25 percent funding to community colleges and froze tuition at the state universities the past two years, he proudly pointed out.
His legislative career, he said, has been greatly aided by his wife, Carmen. “I am very lucky to have a person like her. When I first started (in the Legislature), we had the restaurant and she was left alone to make the tough decisions during the week.”
Slowing down isn’t in the Republican’s vocabulary. In fact, he said he is enthused about the position as he was when he first sat in his chair 20 years ago.
“I have always took the job on a two-year basis, but I have the same enthusiasm at (age) 73 as I did 20 years ago. My thinking is clear, I can make decisions and I can serve my constituents,” he stated. “I just am trying to get back. I know I will need the public support to do that. I will continue to work, spread the work and ask people for their support.”
Iowa’s primary election is Tuesday, June 3. However, voters can mark their absentee ballots anytime before June 3 by going to the county auditor’s office and requesting a ballot.