Nels Jensen Smith (January 29, 1939 – September 1, 2023) was a prominent American politician hailing from the state of Wyoming. A dedicated member of the Republican Party, Smith made significant contributions during his time in the Wyoming House of Representatives, ultimately serving as the Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives from 1977 to 1979.
Early Life and Education
Nels Jensen Smith was born in Newcastle, Wyoming, on January 29, 1939, into a family deeply involved in politics. His parents, Peter and Helen (Jensen) Smith, were part of a politically active household. Notably, his grandfather, Nels H. Smith, held the position of Governor of Wyoming. The influence of his family’s political engagement was evident in Nels’ upbringing and career choices. He began his educational journey at the University of Wyoming, and in 1961, he successfully obtained his bachelor’s degree.
Smith commenced his political career by winning the Crook County seat in the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1962, marking the onset of a path marked by dedication and legislative accomplishments. As a representative, he sponsored critical bills, including pioneering the first strip mine reclamation law in the West. Notably, Smith also championed populist causes, striving to benefit the elderly, disabled, and the state’s fiscal landscape.
In 1975, Smith took up the crucial role of chairing the Legislative Management Council, demonstrating his party’s trust in his leadership capabilities. During his tenure, he held prominent positions, including Majority Floor Leader and Speaker Pro Tem, showcasing his commitment to the people of Wyoming.
Following his term in the Wyoming House of Representatives, Smith continued to contribute to Wyoming’s political landscape while managing his ranches. He was an influential figure as the President of the Wyoming Taxpayers Association, tirelessly advocating for the formation of a state Budget Adjustment Account. Additionally, he ventured into the gubernatorial race in 1982, further demonstrating his commitment to public service.
In 1983, Smith took on the role of Wyoming’s Public Service Commissioner, leaving a lasting impact on regulatory affairs and public service. His dedication and active involvement in these roles showcased his relentless spirit in the pursuit of better governance and representation for the people of Wyoming.
Legacy and Passing
Tragically, on September 1, 2023, Nels J. Smith’s life was cut short in a devastating car accident at the age of 84. The accident also claimed the life of his wife, leaving behind a legacy of public service and a profound impact on Wyoming’s political sphere. Nels Jensen Smith’s contributions to Wyoming and his enduring commitment to public service will always be remembered.