The long-time leader of Democrats in the Iowa Senate is cleaning out his capitol office after 34 years in the legislature.
“I’ve had a great run at this, great fun, learned a lot,” says Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs.
Last week, Gronstal was defeated in his bid for another term in the state senate. Gronstal told Radio Iowa he has no real regrets.
“Obviously I wish I would have won and I wish I’d still be here making policy…but when one door closes, another one opens,” Gronstal said. “I will find some other way to do what I’ve always been about and that’s leaving the world a better place. Both my wife and I, growing up in the ’60s, that became our goal in life…and I think in a hundred different ways, I can point at things and say: ‘Yes, I left the world a better place.'”
Gronstal points to increased state investments in public schools and community colleges as achievements.
“For me, it’s always been about growing Iowa, growing our economy, making things better, strengthening the middle class…and I have loved every minute of this,” Gronstal said.
Gronstal also cites his refusal to allow senate debate of proposals that would have banned same-sex marriage in Iowa. Gronstal took that stand after the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. Republicans spent thousands to try to defeat Gronstal in 2012, but he won another term. Republicans targeted Gronstal again this year and he lost.
“Really kind of amazing, so a fundamentally Republican seat, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, it took the Republicans 10 tries to try to defeat me,” Gronstal said. “I’m kind of proud of that as well.”
In addition to clearing out his statehouse office, Gronstal is helping two national organizations he leads find new executives. As for the next chapter in his life, the 66-year-old Gronstal simply says: ‘We’ll see.”
“I haven’t fished in 30 years, I wouldn’t mind doing that,” Gronstal told Radio Iowa. “Who knows what comes up next.”
Gronstal served one term in the Iowa House and he’s been a state senator since January of 1985. In 1992, the president of the Iowa Senate resigned amid a scandal. Gronstal briefly took over as senate president, but a few months later his Democratic colleagues selected someone else to be their leader. In 1996, Gronstal’s fellow Democrats selected him as their floor leader. It means Gronstal holds the record for the shortest tenure as president of the senate, but he is also the longest-serving floor leader ever in the Iowa legislature.
“I have had a great, fascinating life with a whole lot of twists and turns and if that door hadn’t closed in 1992, the door in 1996 never would have opened,” Gronstal said.
Gronstal sat beside a table piled with memorabilia as he spoke with Radio Iowa late Wednesday afternoon. In January, 38-year-old Dan Dawson, a military veteran who is currently an agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, will represent the Council Bluffs area in the state senate.