A 36-year-old entrepreneur with a football background is now the presiding officer in the Iowa Senate.
Jack Whitver’s name may be familiar to the state’s sports fans. He was a wide receiver for Iowa State and played on Cyclone teams that went to bowl games in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
“To get anything done at the capitol, you have to be part of a team…so all the lessons that I learned playing football growing up, they apply a lot more than people would think to politics,” Whitver said during an interview with Radio Iowa.
Whitver has an MBA and a law degree. He owns six central Iowa fitness clubs. He just entered the franchise restaurant business with a “Smoothie King” in West Des Moines and will open another in Waukee next month.
“I consider myself an entrepreneur more than anything. I like to say I’m a businessman with a law degree,” Whitver said, with a laugh.
Whitver has been a state senator, representing Ankeny, since 2011. After the 2016 election, Whitver’s fellow Republicans selected him to be president of the senate. He delivered a brief speech after being sworn into office this week.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be elected as the new senate president and, like all of you, being elected to serve the great people of this state is not a responsibility I take lightly,” Whitver said.
Whitver grew up in Grinnell. He has a portrait of a former senator from the town hanging in his new statehouse office.
“It’s a picture of Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, a pioneer who founded the city of Grinnell,” Whitver said during a speech on Monday. “…Many of you have heard the phrase: ‘Go west, young man. Go west.’ This advice, many say, was given by the great statesman Horace Greeley to a young man named J.B. Grinnell.”
Whitver said Greeley’s advice to pursue opportunities and embrace risks should challenge the Iowans of today.
“When this session ends and people remember the 2017 session, let them say this was the year that positively changed our state forever,” Whitver said during his speech. “Let them say that this was the year the economic revival began in Iowa and let them say that 2017 was the year the legislature dared to dream big.”
There’s an interesting roster at the law firm where Whitver has worked for the past five years. It includes another legislative leader. Republican Chris Hagenow of Windsor Heights is the majority leader in the Iowa House.
“Jack’s an Iowan. Jack’s a family man. He loves to watch football, loves to spend time with his family and he’s just a good guy,” Hagenow told Radio Iowa this week. “He’s the kind of guy you’d like to be friends with.”
Two former federal prosecutors and the Iowa Republican Party’s treasurer also work at the same law firm as Hagenow and Whitver.