Torrington Woman Taps Deep Roots In Run For State House Seat Her Dad Once Held

Torrington resident Jackie Van Mark is running against incumbent state Rep. Scott Smith for House District 5, to win back a seat her dad once held. Van Mark is a 4th generation Wyomingite who comes from one of the state's original homesteading families.

Leo Wolfson

May 13, 20247 min read

Torrington resident Jackie Van Mark wants to follow in her father's footsteps by bringing civility and compromise back to the Wyoming Legislature.
Torrington resident Jackie Van Mark wants to follow in her father's footsteps by bringing civility and compromise back to the Wyoming Legislature. (Courtesy Photo)

Torrington resident Jackie Van Mark spent most of her life growing up around politics. Her father worked in the administrations of former Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, in addition to serving in the Wyoming House of Representatives.

“At the end of the day, I am a Republican because I believe in less government and government closest to the people is the best,” Van Mark said. “I believe that individuals and their ability to come up and be innovative and care for themselves is what drove this country and this state to be as wonderful as it is.”

Van Mark is taking on state Rep. Scott Smith, R-Lingle, in his bid for reelection to a second term for House District 5 in the Wyoming Legislature representing southern and western Goshen County. It’s the same seat her father Jack represented from 1961-1965.

Who’s Van Mark?

Van Mark is about as Wyoming as it gets, a fourth-generation resident whose family was identified as one of the Cowboy State’s original homesteading families.

“We’re deeply rooted in Goshen County,” she said.

Van Mark is also vice president of the Goshen County Economic Development Board of Directors. Previously, she worked for former Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas and in the Department of Labor during former president George W. Bush’s administration. She also was a public affairs specialist at the Sheridan V.A. clinic.

Van Mark said she’s inspired to run for office by what she sees as a lack of civility in the Legislature. Mastering the art of compromise and give-and-take, Van Mark believes, is the essence of politics. In short, she believes it does matter how the sausage is made.

She mentioned a story of how a Democratic adversary mentored her father, a Republican, and helped him usher a bill through the legislative process that the Democrat still ended up voting against.

“That’s when my dad learned it’s not my way or the highway, you have to build relationships,” Van Mark said. “That’s what he did when he was in the Legislature, and I hope that’s something I can do as well.”

In addition to working as a real estate agent, Van Mark has also followed in her father’s footsteps into wheat farming. Agriculture is a bread-and-butter industry in Goshen, which usually has some of the warmest weather in Wyoming. Van Mark believes this industry should get better representation at the state Capitol.

“I come from the largest ag-producing county in the state and Cheyenne needs to look at Goshen County and see that,” she said.

Van Mark supports Wyoming’s traditional energy industries. But she also wants Wyoming to pursue new alternative energies and technological approaches, particularly when considering President Joe Biden’s administration’s efforts to curtail production of fossil fuels.

“We need to keep up with technology, we need to remind the world we’re No. 1 in energy producing, and we need to keep up with the technology and make sure we use it to the benefit of Wyoming,” she said. “If we don’t, we’re going to have a state income tax and I do not want that.”

State Rep. Scott Smith, R-Lingle.
State Rep. Scott Smith, R-Lingle. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Who’s Smith?

Smith moved to Wyoming in 2012 after serving as a missionary teacher in an orphanage in Honduras and living in Michigan.

He is a member of the farther right Wyoming Freedom Caucus, a group that has blasted many of the political norms in the Cowboy State with a no-compromises approach to voting with what it sees as representative of the Republican platform.

Smith points to the growth of this group as evidence it represents the majority of voters in Wyoming, which he believes were inspired like himself by the government shutdowns made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We just need to continue the momentum of the freedom-type individuals that have been slowly making progress in the state House,” he said.

Some of the bills he’s most proud of helping pass during the 2024 legislative session ended up being vetoed by Gov. Mark Gordon, such as legislation reducing property taxes by 25% for up to $2 million in home value and eliminating gun-free zones in Wyoming.

“Those kinds of things were very important for people in the entire state, but especially people in my district,” he said.

Smith said he has relished his experience serving in the Legislature, but most importantly has enjoyed getting to know the people of his local community better.

“Before every vote I make, I’m thinking of the people of my local community more than political upsets,” he said.

Smith also makes a point to regularly attend public meetings for local school boards and commissions to ensure he’s well-versed on what’s happening in his community.

If reelected, Smith said he wants to focus on keeping Wyoming fiscally prudent, keeping the state government budget at or below the rate of inflation or state population growth.

“Then there would be a lot more free money for the people that we wouldn’t have to tax,” he said. “I think the government needs to live within its means and not be a burden on the people.”

Smith doesn’t support Gordon’s all-of-the-above energy policy, which represents general support for traditional fossil fuels as well as green energies. He equates more revenue to higher taxes, which he opposes.


Smith brought up how Van Mark supported former congresswoman Liz Cheney’s 2022 campaign against U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman, serving as a member of Cheney’s state leadership team. Hageman is a Fort Laramie native and won her home county by 54 percentage points over Cheney.

“Being from the hometown where Harriet Hageman grew up, that doesn’t bode well for her,” Smith said.

Van Mark also supported former Republican legislator Shelly Duncan’s 2022 campaign. Duncan lost to Smith in her reelection bid that year.

She also wrote a letter to the editor to Cowboy State Daily in March defending the governor, who has been a chief target of the Freedom Caucus over the past year.

Still, Van Mark believes she represents the views of Goshen County voters for her support of individual rights, lower taxes and Wyoming’s legacy.

“The voters of Goshen County, that’s going to resonate with them,” she said. “I’m one of them and they believe the same thing I do.”

In the op-ed, Van Mark described herself as an “establishment Republican,” a group she credits for Wyoming’s high quality of life.

“I like being called an establishment Republican,” she writes. “Yep, that’s me. I am part of that group of Wyoming cowboys and cowgirls that established the wonderful way of life we have today.”

But Van Mark said she’s not discontent with Smith’s representation, she just believes she could do the job better.

“I haven’t seen anything that he’s done down in Cheyenne,” she said. “I don’t know that he’s done anything to be discontented with.”

Smith hasn’t yet had any of his own legislation passed into law.

Van Mark also pointed out how he’s a fairly recent transplant to the state.

“He’s not from Wyoming, he’s lived here a few years, he came back and ran,” she said. “I see that as a pattern and I don’t like it.”

Many members of the Freedom Caucus are like Smith, not Wyoming natives.

The District

Smith said he feels confident the majority of his district shares his farther right conservative views.

He beat Duncan with 7% more of the vote in 2022 in the Republican primary, while Duncan won her 2020 reelection bid unopposed. Duncan beat Van Mark’s sister, Ruth Van Mark, with 4% more of the vote in the 2018 Republican primary.

Prior to that, now state Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, represented the district.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter