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Linda Upmeyer will replace Kraig Paulsen to become the first female speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives.

Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, announced earlier this month that he would step down as speaker, effective at the start of the 2016 legislative session. He will not seek reelection. The Republican caucus met Thursday to choose his replacement. Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, also sought the seat.

Upmeyer said she is “honored” to take over as speaker. As the first woman in the House's top role, she said she hopes she can inspire the next generation of leaders.

“I’ve never felt like there was a glass ceiling I needed to break,” Upmeyer said. “However, in visiting with the public as I go out and recruit candidates and help members campaign, it’s my hope – and I know it’s true – that there’s a young lady out there somewhere that is going to say, 'I can do this too.' (Someone) that perhaps had never thought about it before.”

But when she spoke about her late father Delwyn Stromer, who served as House speaker during the 69th General Assembly, Upmeyer did get emotional.

“This morning, my mother gave me the lapel pin that was a gavel that she’d given him when he was first elected speaker,” Upmeyer said, visibly tearing up. “So it’s just a very special moment for our family I think.”

All of the other elected leadership positions within the House Republican caucus will be held by men.

Rep. Linda Miller, R-Bettendorf, said women in the caucus are happy with the positions they currently hold, but she hopes having Upmeyer as speaker will help Republicans recruit more female candidates in general.

“Women have to be asked. Men never have to be asked to run for the job. Never. But women need to be asked. And so that’s the real trick,” she said

Upmeyer will serve as speaker-select through the remainder of the year and will take over the position with an official vote on the first day of the 2016 legislative session. In the interim, she will focus on shaping the policy agenda for House Republicans going into next session.

"The priorities of the caucus haven’t changed," she said. "So making sure we’re living within our means and making sure that we carry forward the agenda that we set for last year will be part of the priorities that we continue to do."

Byrnes, who was Upmeyer’s only challenger, said he sought the position to try to mix up Republican leadership and refocus the caucus on doing what’s best for Iowans, regardless of party.

He said he hopes Upmeyer will be open and receptive to every member of the Legislature, regardless of leadership position.

“There’s a lot of us that sometimes feel like during the regular part of the session you get thrown some table scraps and you get to work on some policy bills and stuff, but at the end of the day… it kind of comes down to about four people (who make decisions),” he said. “And that’s not democracy. I just feel like we need to do a better job of listening to everybody and having more input. And that’s kind of a message that’s kind of resonating. So I hope as she sets the leadership agenda she thinks about those things.”

House Republicans also elected Rep. Chris Hagenow, R-Windsor Heights, to replace Upmeyer as House majority leader. He was elected to the House in 2008 and is currently serving his fourth term. Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, will serve as House majority whip. He was elected in 2010 and is serving his third term in the House.

Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, who is serving his first term, will serve as an assistant majority leader.

Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, did not seek a new seat and will remain speaker pro tempore. Reps. Lee Hein, R-Monticello, Jarad Klein, R-Keota, and Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, will also continue their current roles as assistant leaders.

Gov. Terry Branstad congratulated Upmeyer and the newly elected leaders.

“Today is a historic day as Republican Linda Upmeyer will become the first female speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives," he said in a statement. "I congratulate Speaker-select Upmeyer and am eager to work with her, Majority Leader Chris Hagenow, Majority Whip Joel Fry and Assistant Majority Leader Zach Nunn to continue building Iowa for the future. In Iowa, women are leading in key positions throughout state government – Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, State Auditor Mary Mosiman, Senate President Pam Jochum, the most female department directors in Iowa history, and soon the Speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives.”

House Minority Leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, said in a statement that the leadership changes will come at the detriment of education funding.

"At Rep. Upmeyer’s direction, House Republicans broke state law and ignored funding for public schools leaving kids in crowded classrooms with outdated textbooks and old technology this fall," he said in a statement. "Rep. Hagenow’s record on public education is terrible. ...  Iowa kids deserve better.”

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