State Rep. Milo Smith, the Republican lawmaker from Columbus, will retire from the state legislature at the end of the year after completing six two-year terms in office.
His announcement Thursday came a day after Ryan Lauer, also of Columbus, filed for a third time seeking the Republican nomination for Smith’s 59th District seat in Indiana’s House of Representatives, which represents all but northeastern Bartholomew County.
Smith, 67, said the decision to retire was made after assuring his wife, Diane, that he would limit himself to 10-hour days while the state legislature is in session, he said.
But since Smith’s tax-consulting business has its busiest time of the year while the Indiana General Assembly is in session, those workdays now reach 16 hours at times, Smith said.
“Something has got to go,” said Smith, who is also promising to increase his level of leadership service to First Christian Church of Columbus, where he is an elder.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to have served the people of my district,” Smith said in his announcement. “However, after 12 years, (I’m) ready to move onto something else.”
On Tuesday, Smith informed Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Bartholomew County Republican Party chairwoman Barb Hackman about his decision, he said.
However, all were asked to keep it secret until Smith could announce it himself, he said.
Lauer, a former Bartholomew County Council president, is the only Republican who has filed for the seat in the two days since filing opened. He described Smith as a dedicated public servant who has served with distinction.
“I have great respect for his dedication for helping constituents,” the 40-year-old Cummins Inc. employee said. “Most of all, I respect him as a faithful and God-fearing man.”
More candidates may step up knowing that Smith is retiring, Hackman said.
It is difficult to run against an incumbent, particularly one such as Smith who has a reputation for constituent service, she said.
Smith has been known for reaching out to public officials in Bartholomew County to consult them about pending bills to learn what the local affect would be, she said.
Hackman said she will wait to see who might step forward in addition to Lauer before announcing who she will back for Smith’s replacement, saying she prefers not to announce any preference in the primary.
Over the past year, Smith has been in the spotlight on two occasions in statewide and nationwide news coverage.
The most recent has been in the past few weeks, when Smith proposed a bill in the legislature calling for refunds to professional sports fans offended by players who would kneel during the national anthem at games.
While the pending bill received national attention and generated email and comments for and against the proposal, Smith described some of the comments as crude and intimidating.
Despite the mixed reaction, Smith pressed on to file House Bill 1011, which received a first reading this week on the House floor, and was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
Bosma predicted earlier that the bill will likely die in that committee, citing potential constitutional violations and possible illegal interference with private business.
Late last year, Smith was scrutinized in his role as chairman of the House Elections and Apportionment Committee after refusing to allow a committee vote to establish an independent commission to re-draw legislative maps to prevent gerrymandering.
Reflecting on his political career, Smith said his work with former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to establish property tax caps for all Hoosiers was “probably the best thing I ever did.”
Smith, who succeeded fellow Republican David Yount in 2007, said he also feels good about stepping down while the state is in sound fiscal shape and employment is strong.
Smith has been known for showing up at community events and town hall meetings, something that has endeared him to voters, Hackman said.
He has been a regular at the weekly Third House sessions in Columbus during the Indiana General Assembly season.
Prior to Vice President Mike Pence’s 2017 inauguration, Smith spent months working on a fund-raising campaign to guarantee that the marching band from Columbus North — Pence’s alma mater — could perform in the inaugural parade in Washington D.C.
Smith said he reached out to Pence to inform him of his decision, leaving a message with a staffer — with, so far, no reply.
Local Republicans may put together some sort of tribute or roast for Smith at the end of his term.
“We may have to get the VP down here for that,” Hackman said.
Assistant Managing Editor Julie McClure contributed to this story.
Occupation: Owner of Tax Consultants, Inc.
Residence: Tipton Lakes area, Columbus
Elected office: 59th District State Representative since 2006.
Committees: Elections and Apportionment, chairman; Government Reduction and Family, Children and Human Affairs committees, member.
Community: First Christian Church of Columbus, elder; Family School Partners Advisory Council; Council for Youth Development; Bartholomew County Leadership Program, graduate.