Szymoniak, Elaine, 1920-2009
- Existence: 1920-2009
Elaine Szymoniak, an Iowa state senator, former Des Moines City Council member and retired hearing and speech consultant, was born on May 24, 1920 to Hugo and Pauline Eisfelder in Boscobel, Wisconsin. In 1941, Szymoniak earned a bachelor's degree in education and speech pathology from the University of Wisconsin. She married Casimir (Chuck) D. Szymoniak in 1943: they reared five children together. Szymoniak's degree and the deafness of both her parents led her to a career in speech therapy and later in rehabilitation. In the 1950s, after Chuck Szymoniak's discharge from the armed forces, the family moved to Des Moines, Iowa. In 1977 Szymoniak earned a master's degree in family environment, commuting to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. She worked both part and full time as a hearing and speech consultant at the Iowa Department of Public Instruction for twenty-one years before her first campaign for public office. Szymoniak won the election in 1977 for first ward city council member in Des Moines on her first attempt by defeating twelve-year incumbent Wallace Buss. At the time of her election, Szymoniak was the only female member of the city council. She unsuccessfully campaigned to become the mayor of Des Moines in 1979 and again in 1987. Following eleven consecutive years on the Des Moines City Council, Szymoniak set her goals on a different political office. In the Iowa State Senate, Szymoniak represented both the forty-second and thirty-sixth districts. Szymoniak's main areas of concern while serving in public office were health, education and human resources. This is reflected in the committees she served on in the senate: Appropriations Committee on Human Services (vice-chair), Education, Human Resources (chair), Judiciary, Local Government and the Ways and Means Committee. While acknowledging anguish on the issue, Szymoniak, a devout Roman Catholic, believed abortion to be a matter that should be left up to the conscience of the individual woman. A parental notification bill on abortion passed in the House of Representatives in 1994 and Szymoniak kept the bill in committee once it reached the Senate. A few lauded her for political savvy but most criticized the move as an attempt of three committee members to forestall legislation by denying the Senate an opportunity to vote for or against the bill. A 1992 Des Moines Register editorial endorsing her re-election summed up Szymoniak's political service: "Szymoniak has been an extremely hardworking, dedicated and conscientious lawmaker who is regarded at the Statehouse as one of the more effective legislators." (Box 3, Political campaigns, State senate, Publicity, Newspaper clippings, 1992).