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Former congressman Neal Smith (WHO-HD)
Former congressman Neal Smith (WHO-HD)

MARION COUNTY, Iowa- The name Neal Smith has been a fixture in central Iowa since 1958.  It’s been almost 20 years since the Democratic congressman Neal Smith left office, but he is still leaving his mark on projects in Iowa.

At a groundbreaking for the new Red Rock Hydroelectric Plant, Smith was recognized for passing appropriation monies in Washington in 1959 to construct the original Red Rock Dam. Smith also helped with federal funds to construct Saylorville Dam, and Rathbun Dam, in southern Iowa.

“I’ve lived long enough to see what comes around, goes around,” said Smith. He recounted the battle over where the dam would be located originally, He said that due to building the dam where it now stands, made it possible to do hydroelectric power.

Smith said the whole debate over power generation has been going on for years. At one point coal plants looked like the future, then it was nuclear power. Land set aside to build a new power plant east of Des Moines near Prairie City was eventually given up, due to “so many federal regulations,” said Smith. That land later became the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge.

Asked about what is going on now in Washington Smith replied, “It’s such a waste of time.”  “We actually accomplished things,” said Smith. “Our reward was accomplishing things,” he added. “I could have made a lot more money practicing law,” said the retired congressman. “My wife and I had a good law practice,” he added.

Smith said the biggest problem now in Washington is the tax code. “It’s obvious they need to amend the tax code,” said Smith.  “The tax laws are not working right,” according to Smith. “They need to pass some of the profits the big companies have to the stock holders,” he said.

These days Smith still lives in the Des Moines area. “My wife’s in a nursing home, I go out there everyday,” he said.