It?s a Tuesday morning and Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Mt. Pleasant) is in his car, driving to Des Moines.
It?s a commute that during the past two decades has become routine. However, this time next year Heaton will be looking forward to enjoying snow days at home with his wife and not on the road.
Heaton, who has served in the Iowa House of Representatives since 1995, announced Monday, Feb. 5, that he would not run for re-election.
?The last time I ran I was aware this was my 12th term, I?ve spent 24 years in the legislature. I?m 77 years old and I don?t know how much longer I?m going to be here on this Earth,? he said over the phone during his commute to Des Moines. ?I thought maybe it was time for someone else to take my place. I?d like to spend more time with my wife and to be home and enjoy my friends and community.?
Before working in the legislature, Heaton and his wife, Carmen, owned Iris Restaurant in Mt. Pleasant. It was serving customers there that Heaton knew he could do more.
?I was running a restaurant for 42 years. For most of that time I?m working with my customers and I?m listening to my customers. I know what?s on their minds. I sensed their frustration of not being connected to their government the way I thought they should be.?
At that point, Heaton decided to run for State Sentate.
?Tom Vilsack and I had a real good race,? said Heaton. ?I lost and Tom won and he went on to be State Sentator, Governor and Secretary of Agriculture. He did a wonderful job and was able to accomplish a lot.?
Two years later, Heaton again ran for public office, this time he won the seat in the House of Representatives.
?I got into this because I wanted to be an extension for the people who live in the district. I wanted to be their voice,? he said.
For 12 years, Heaton would stand at the end of the Sunday buffet at his restaurant and listen to his constituents. ?I?d be slicing the roast beef as they came, people would tell me what was on their minds and when I came to Des Moines the next week I knew exactly what was on people?s minds and what they wanted.?
?To be in the business of serving people at the restaurant and to be in Des Moines serving people in the legislature, it was the perfect combination,? he added.
Over the course of his career in the legislature, Heaton said one of the highlights was when he was named chairman of Health and Human Services. ?I knew then I could dedicate myself to trying to make a difference in people?s lives as far as those who are disadvantaged,? he said.
As Heaton drove to Des Moines Tuesday morning, he said he?s not done being the voice of his district. His term will officially conclude on Jan. 1, 2019, and until then he?s ready to keep working. ?We have plenty to do,? he said.