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Forty Under 40 2009

The Des Moines Business Record is proud to present the 10th annual "Forty Under 40" class.


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The Des Moines Business Record is proud to present the 10th annual “Forty Under 40” class. These young men and women were selected from a veritable flood of nominations, based on their achievements, leadership and community involvement. Their stories are told in brief on the following pages.

Chad Airhart | Age 31
Executive director, Waukee Area Chamber of Commerce

Chad Airhart knows firsthand the challenges faced by children with a parent in prison; when he was a teenager, his father was convicted on drug charges. His experience led him to form the Airhart Leadership Foundation in 2004, which each year during the holidays provides food, gifts and mentoring to children and families who are in a similar situation.

“My philosophy on community leadership is that one person can make a difference,” said Airhart, who became executive director of the Waukee Area Chamber of Commerce in the summer of 2007. “Fortunately I had a couple of influences in my life that kept me on a good path. And because of that, I have had a great life and some great experiences.”

Under Airhart’s leadership, the Waukee chamber has increased its influence in Greater Des Moines, expanding its membership by 75 percent last year. In 2008, Airhart was also appointed to serve on the city of Waukee Planning and Zoning Commission.

He is an active member of the Waukee Rotary Club and Waukee Optimist Club. Airhart has also served in many capacities at Simpson United Methodist Church and helped to create a permanent endowment fund and committee to keep the church fiscally sound for years to come.

The Airhart Leadership Foundation assists between 10 and 25 children and their families each year, providing items such as shoes and blankets as well as Christmas gifts and holiday meals. “But more importantly I have been able to spend time with the children, who are in no way to blame for the mistakes of their parents, and talk to them about their future, what they want to do in life, and encourage them that anything is possible,” he said.

“Chad does most of the things he does not seeking recognition of the press,” wrote Isaiah McGee, a Waukee city councilman who nominated him. “While he may garner good press for his job, his extracurricular activities are performed out of the goodness of his heart and the want to give back to the community he loves.”

Chris Anderson | Age 37
Managing director, RSM McGladrey Inc.; partner, McGladrey & Pullen LLP

Chris Anderson may be a tax accountant, but he “doesn’t fit into a neat-and-tidy tax-guy box,” says his boss, Rod Foster.

Anderson, a partner at the Des Moines office of McGladrey & Pullen LLP, is able to see the big picture, Foster said.

“He has the ability to go beyond answering questions; he does an excellent job of getting (clients) to step back and ask, ‘What are we trying to accomplish?’ Our clients truly benefit from working with him,” he said.

Similarly, Anderson takes a larger view when it comes to helping a number of Greater Des Moines organizations, particularly charities that benefit children. He has volunteered with Variety – The Children’s Charity’s VIP Telethon for the past five years. For six years, he was active with Children & Families of Iowa, where he served as treasurer, executive board member and as a member of the audit committee. He also participates in the Rotary Club of Des Moines A.M., where he has been a leader in the Holiday Adopt a Family projects.

“There are a lot of underprivileged children in the Des Moines area that need assistance, and I feel an obligation to help them,” Anderson said. “My wife and I spend a lot of time doing Adopt a Family work, and again, that’s for the kids. We feel lucky for what we have, and we want to share.”

Anderson began his career in public accounting at Deloitte & Touche in 1994 and joined RSM McGladrey Inc. in 2002. He was promoted to tax managing director at RSM McGladrey and partner at McGladrey & Pullen in 2002. He is a member of the firm’s Federal Tax Specialty Group, and served as a leader of the McGladrey’s regional manufacturing and wholesale distribution (MWD) team for four years. Under his leadership the MWD team received a national achievement award for excellence in 2006. He also has led various regional tax teams for RSM McGladrey, among them its Tax Ideas Group, Accounting Methods Group and State and Local Tax Group.

A vigorous supporter of youth athletics, Anderson coaches basketball, baseball, football and wrestling in a variety of programs in the metro area.

“Anything my son is in, I try to be the coach of,” he said.

Sarabeth Anderson | Age 35
Director of development, Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Over the past 10 years, Sarabeth Anderson has noticed a trend among the positions she’s accepted: None of them existed before she took the job.

For instance, Anderson is the first employee to serve as director of development at the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV), and has also served in newly created positions at United Way of the Plains, Habitat for Humanity of Iowa and Dress for Success, a nonprofit group she founded in Wichita.

“I’ve never had a job that existed before I had the job,” Anderson said. “It’s really kind of the norm for me. I like building things and creating things out of nothing. My sister actually said to me once, ‘Doing something that has already been done before just seems too easy for you.'”

During her time at ICADV, Anderson, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a law degree from the University of Iowa, has helped establish the Support Iowa Survivors Society annual giving campaign and helped create the organization’s annual fund-raising event, It’s About Time, which raised more than $86,000 in its first two years.

Anderson also helped organize ICADV’s 2007 “I’m a survivor, I’m your …” public awareness campaign for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and is currently working on the Iowa Voices Project, a public awareness campaign that spans three years.

Additionally, she teaches evening classes at Grand View University, and has taught at Iowa State University and Des Moines Area Community College. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, has served on the board of directors of Polk County Women Attorneys, was a member of the Ankeny Jaycees in 2007 and 2008 and was a member of Wichita’s 2001 Forty Under 40 class. Anderson is also proud of her participation in both Hy-Vee Triathlons and two sprint marathons in the past two years.

“I think that everything I have done has been to sort of help people and improve their lives, but helping women has really been important to me, and helping them become as self-sufficient and strong as possible,” Anderson said. “I have two sons and I’ve always said, ‘There aren’t enough good men in the world, so this is my chance to raise two.'”

Amanda Brink Hull | Age 33
Local sales manager, KCCI

Every morning when she wakes up, Amanda Brink Hull, local sales manager for KCCI television, makes sure the first thing she puts on is her positive attitude.

“You have two choices when you wake up every day: to either make it a good day, or to make it a bad day,” she said. “Positive energy is everything. It is extremely important. I’ve always made the right choices with the people I’ve surrounded myself with, and positive energy is something I try to pass on to everyone I come in contact with.”

Brink Hull, who has an associate of business degree from AIB College of Business, a bachelor’s in business from Simpson College and a master of organizational psychology degree from Walden University, joined KCCI in December 2007. But said, “It feels like I have been here forever, but then again the year has gone by so super-quick.”

During her first year at KCCI, Brink Hull reorganized the station’s commercial sales production department, resulting in doubled revenues for 2008, and organized a record-breaking year for the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots campaign, generating more than $110,000 in monetary donations and more than 61,000 toys distributed to 30,000 children in need.

Brink Hull also helped raise $300,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, where she was the first runner-up in its Celebrity of the Year campaign.

“There were so many positive influences,” Brink Hull said. “And again, this is one of those things – surround yourself with good people because a lot of these accomplishments you just cannot do on your own; there is a lot of collaboration and delegation.”

Brink Hull was nominated for and selected to participate in the Hearst Management Institute to continue her education within Hearst Corp.; 48 employees were selected out of 26,000 employees company-wide. Additionally, she served as the master of ceremonies for Children and Families of Iowa’s 2008 annual meeting and 120th birthday celebration, an organization she strongly supports.

“Amanda is always willing to lend a helping hand, quick to volunteer, intelligent, genuine, and an all-around positive influence in our community,” said Paul Fredericksen, president and general manager of KCCI. “She works hard and does it all with a smile.”

Ben Bruns | Age 31
Project manager, The Weitz Co.

Ben Bruns has taken the skills he learned as a four-year letter winner for the Iowa State Cyclones football team nearly 10 years ago and applied them to his career as a project manager for The Weitz Co.

“The lessons that you learn being a student athlete and having that time-management piece, that is just another step to being successful,” Bruns said. “To be able to get through school and do it well, you have to manage your time.”

Bruns, who earned a bachelor of science in construction engineering while starting for the Cyclone football team three years in a row, said managing his time and priorities is important, especially on some of the larger projects he has helped complete, such as the Iowa State University Jack Trice Stadium renovations and the Drake University Quads and Olin Hall renovation. Bruns was also a part of the project team for the $190 million Wells Fargo & Co. West Des Moines campus, where he led the construction on two of the five buildings. Additionally, Bruns led the construction on the Principal Financial Group Inc.’s Corporate 7 building in Johnston and the Buena Vista Center in Storm Lake.

“I try not to think about anything other than just being engaged and being good at everything I do,” he said. “You take every day and you try to do as much as you can that day.”

For the past eight years, Bruns has served as the volunteer offensive line coach for Valley High School in West Des Moines, helping lead the team to four Class 4A state titles, and currently serves as a board member for Children & Families of Iowa, and the Iowa State University Letterwinners Club, where he served a two-year term as president. Bruns is also a member of the United Way of Central Iowa’s Leadership Circle and led the 2001 and 2002 United Way campaigns for The Weitz Co., achieving distinction in 2001 by being awarded the Spirit of Caring award, which is given to the top campaign for companies of similar sizes in the area.

However, Bruns still manages to squeeze a few more sports activities into his schedule, especially during football season when he serves as the sideline reporter and pregame/postgame analyst for the Cyclone Radio Network, broadcasting all of Iowa State’s football games. Bruns jokes about his alma mater’s football win-loss record, but remains optimistic that new head coach Paul Rhoads – who was on the staff when he was a starter – will lead the team in the right direction.

Kate Byus | Age 35
Marketing manager, R&R Realty Group

Kate Byus raised her glass and congratulated two close friends who are also in this year’s Forty Under 40 class. However Byus, who is the marketing manager at R&R Realty Group, said the real toast should be to her family members, who are the greatest support system she has.

“My husband is wonderful and is really supportive,” Byus said. “And I give three cheers for grandparents. Without a lot of help from them, none of this would be possible. They make the wheels go ’round.”

Byus, who is a busy mom to a 1-year-old and a 2 1/2-year-old, said her biggest challenge is trying to manage her busy schedule.

A Des Moines native, Byus spent 10 years in Chicago before moving back to her hometown to raise her family, and quickly became involved in the community. Currently, she is a member of the inaugural class of the West Des Moines Leadership Institute, serves as a board member for the YMCA of Greater Des Moines’ Y Camp, is a committee member for the Iowa Historical Foundation and serves on a subcommittee for the Waterbury Neighborhood Association. She was also a Boardlaunch class participant in 2007 and served on the Roosevelt High School fund-raising subcommittee in 2007.

Beyond her civic involvement, Byus also makes sure to stay actively involved in her career. In her current position, Byus markets and leases commercial properties and is the Country Club Office Plaza park leader, where she is in charge of a 1 million-square-foot park that encompasses 20 buildings. She is also an active member of the Iowa Commercial Real Estate Association, Toastmasters, which is a national organization that focuses on improving public speaking skills, and participates in both the Des Moines and West Des Moines chambers of commerce.

Byus, who has a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Amherst College in Amherst, Mass., was also named salesperson of the year by Money magazine in 2000.

“I used to do advertising sales for Money magazine,” she said. The salesperson of the year award “was sort of at the dawn of online trading, and I landed the (TD) Ameritrade (Inc.) account. That attributed to a very nice year for me, enough to earn me a year’s worth of business.”

Blake Campbell | Age 31
Director of alumni and parent programs, Drake University

Even though he is barely in his 30s, Blake Campbell acknowledges that he has done great things for Greater Des Moines. However, Campbell said he has changed his focus away from his own success and toward younger co-workers who are trying to achieve their goals.

“I wanted to do great things, and I did,” Campbell said. “And now I feel I can be content and help others achieve what they want. Hopefully a little bit of my success comes through with the university’s success.”

Campbell, who has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Northern Iowa and a master’s in public administration from Drake University, was recently promoted to director of alumni and parent programs at Drake, where he previously served as a senior advancement officer in the office of alumni and development. Prior to his stint at Drake, Campbell served as the associate director of development for the Iowa State University Foundation.

Campbell attributes his success to the opportunities he has been given over the course of his career.

“I just hate to say ‘no’ when I can say ‘yes,'” he said. “I have been lucky enough to be in positions to say ‘yes’ to opportunities, and hopefully they were presented because someone had faith in me to do well. People come into your life for a reason, and it’s to learn something from them. But the toughest thing is figuring out what it is you’re going to learn; it is the toughest part. So examine what it is about that person that you can take with you and learn.”

Campbell is a committee member for the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Philanthropy Day event, as well as a member of the board of governors for the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, in which he was a member of the 2007-2008 class. He is a volunteer and member of the leadership board for the Kiwanis Miracle League Field project as well as a volunteer for the YMCA of Greater Des Moines Partner with Youth campaign. Campbell received a silver award of excellence in alumni programming from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education and was a chair of the Drake all-staff council recognition committee.

Jeff Clayton | Age 33
Account executive and attorney, Holmes Murphy & Associates

Interning at the White House is definitely on the top of Jeff Clayton’s neatest-accomplishments list.

“That was probably the best experience that I have ever had,” said Clayton, who is an account executive and attorney for Holmes Murphy & Associates. “It was when Clinton was president. It was something that I thought never would have happened, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I got to see a lot of inside stuff that a lot of people didn’t get to see.”

And since his stint in Washington, D.C., Clayton has continued to add to his list of accomplishments. Clayton, who has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science and a law degree from the University of Iowa – where he was also crowned homecoming king – has also been featured in City-view’s “Five to Watch” list and has been profiled in Juice and The Des Moines Register.

A Des Moines native, Clayton considers himself a risk-taker. “I don’t think I have ever really looked at something and didn’t think it was possible,” he said. “I think the risks I have taken to get unique experiences and opportunities I’ve been given at the end of the day, are ones that made sense to do.”

Clayton was appointed by Des Moines City Councilwoman Christine Hensley to serve on the Zoning Board of Adjustment. He served as vice president of the North Grand Neighborhood Association, was the founder and president of the Young Des Moines Lunch Club, and volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa in its school-based program and for Junior Achievement of Central Iowa Inc., where he goes into classrooms and gives presentations to students.

Clayton also founded the Young Des Moines Social Club, now known as the Des Moines Social Club, where he helped the organization grow to 900 members, and is a board member for the Polk County Young Lawyers as well as a member of the young lawyers division of the Iowa State Bar Association.

“I like everything I do,” he said. “I don’t tend to do things unless it’s something I’m interested in or care about.” Clayton said he especially likes the work he does on the Board of Adjustment because “we make decisions that affect what people are able to do in this town and you see immediate impact,” he said.

Deann Cook | Age 39
Communications consultant

As a professional communicator, Deann Cook has worked with numerous organizations to improve their processes and enhance their professional images. But it has been her willingness to use those talents for the community’s benefit that has made her a true leader among her under-40 peers.

“Deann has the ability to enter into a situation, recognize its needs and set up the plan to successfully create a solution,” West Des Moines City Councilwoman Loretta Sieman wrote in a nominating letter. “Her peers recognize this and follow her willingly. It is her creative talent and ability to work along with others that makes it easy to like and respect her.”

Among the organizations Cook has represented in her public relations career are the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines, Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino and Iowa Health – Des Moines.

“Right now I am working with Orchard Place on their spelling bee fund-raiser, and I’ve done a couple of projects for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation,” she said. “And I’m serving on the board of the YWCA.”

She began her career with Aegon USA in Cedar Rapids in 1992 as a marketing specialist after graduating from Central College in Pella. She and her husband moved to Johnston in 1999.

“I found that when we moved to Des Moines, it was a big place and volunteering was the best way to meet new people and to make new friends,” Cook said. “And I also had great role models in my parents, who were always involved in the community. So it just seemed natural to be involved in the community, whether you’re paid or not.”

In Greater Des Moines, Cook has used her talents to plan and execute a successful fund-raising partnership between the Home Builders Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She is a founding member of the Blank Park Zoo Ambassadors Council, where she worked on recruiting and planning activities. She also has served as president of the Junior League of Des Moines Inc.

“Under her guidance, our League blossomed,” wrote former ABC5 news anchor Lisa Carponelli, who has worked with Cook both professionally and philanthropically. “Members were excited to take on bigger projects and volunteer in new areas,” among them a focus on literacy and an initiative to address childhood obesity.

Lisa Davis-Cook | Age 39
Director of public affairs, Iowa Association for Justice

When she was a sixth-grader growing up near De Witt, Lisa Davis-Cook was seriously burned when a faulty furnace caused an explosion. That incident, which also injured 27 others, would ultimately lead her to become a lobbyist to fight for laws to protect people from faulty products and other injustices.

As director of public affairs for the Iowa Association for Justice (IAJ), Davis-Cook leads the organization’s legislative and electoral efforts, and she also raised a record amount of money for IAJ’s political action committee, Justice For All, in fiscal 2008.

“This is not an easy job; it’s a lot of time away from my husband and kids,” she said. “But the idea is that I’m fighting for people who have been harmed like I was to have their day in court. To have that avenue available to them is very, very important to me.”

Prior to joining IAJ (formerly the Iowa Trial Lawyers Assocation) in January 2007, Davis-Cook served as a program organizer and then co-executive director of Iowa Citizen Action Network (ICAN). She serves several community organizations, among them St. Francis of Assisi Church, where she chairs the education and policy boards, and the Iowa Renewable Energy Association’s executive committee. She was appointed twice to the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission and served as commission secretary for four years. A board member of the Young Women’s Resource Center since 2004, Cook-Davis led the organization to record fund-raising levels when she chaired its Fund Development Committee, one of several committees on which she has served.

“Over the years, Lisa has accepted some high-profile organizational and public service assignments and performed them to the hilt,” wrote Brad Lint, IAJ’s executive director, who also hired Davis-Cook at ICAN in 1996.

“She brings diverse people and groups together to extend the frontiers of justice and improve the quality of life in this state.”

Robin Epp | Age 39
Medical director, occupational medicine and corporate wellness, Iowa Health – Des Moines

As a physician specializing in occupational medicine, Dr. Robin Epp focuses on preventing workplace injuries as well as helping people who have been injured return to work as quickly as possible. She oversees two occupational medicine clinics as medical director of Iowa Health – Des Moines’ employee health and corporate wellness programs. She also is responsible for direct patient care, conducts medical reviews and establishes impairment ratings for injured workers.

Occupational medicine involves a wide range of services related to employee well-being, among them pre-employment physical examinations and drug screenings, handling of workers’ compensation injury cases and on-site education programs on topics such as ergonomics and injury prevention. Employees of companies participating in Iowa Health’s programs may visit either clinic for treatment of minor injuries, physical therapy or for preventive screenings.

“What attracted me to the specialty was that it is so wide-ranging,” said Epp, who also has a master of public health degree from the University of Iowa. “I feel that I can have a role with the community as a whole, rather than just with individual patients.”

Within her profession, Epp is active in the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), which represents more than 7,000 physicians in those specialties. In addition to serving on the ACOEM’s membership and ergonomics committees, she is on the board of governors of the Central States Occupational and Environmental Medicine Association.

She also has served on the board of the Wellness Council of Iowa for the past two years. “We have been working on increasing our membership and visibility within the community,” she said. She is on the council’s education committee, which was recently formed to provide wellness education opportunities for member companies.

“I think what I do day to day really ties in well with being on the board of the Wellness Council of Iowa,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed working in that role.”

In addition to ballroom dancing and traveling, Epp enjoys learning, which may explain why she’s currently pursuing a master of business administration degree, which she expects to complete in December.

Jamie Fitzgerald | Age 37
Polk County auditor

Jamie Fitzgerald’s responsibilities as Polk County auditor are far-reaching. Each year, his office audits payroll records for more than 1,200 county employees, disburses more than $260 million in funds and calculates tax rates for the collection of nearly $700 million by the county. It also maintains maps and records for more than 189,000 real estate parcels and administers voting records for more than 282,000 voters.

Fitzgerald, who has served as Polk County auditor since January 2007, manages a staff of 52 employees in five departments and a budget of more than $5 million. Last fall, his office processed a record-setting election turnout of more than 215,000 Polk County voters, including more than 70,000 absentee ballots, delivering all results within 90 minutes of polls closing.

“It really was lightning in a bottle,” said Fitzgerald, who was instrumental in getting a same-day voter registration bill enacted by the Legislature that enabled more than 6,600 county residents to register on Election Day.

A strong advocate of technology, Fitzgerald directed many technological upgrades after joining the auditor’s office in 2002 as first deputy auditor. Those included enhancing the Web site to include recordings of the board of supervisors’ meetings and making a complete information packet available online prior to each meeting. “We’ve really tried to cut back on the paper,” he said. “Everything we do is with the taxpayer in mind.”

Prior to joining the auditor’s office, he oversaw Michael Mauro’s successful campaign for Iowa secretary of state, and for several years served on the research staff of the Iowa Senate Democrats.

In the community, Fitzgerald is active in a range of activities, from membership in St. Anthony Catholic Church and the Society of Italian-Americans to the boards of the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education and the Iowa State Help America Vote Act Committee.

“As a public servant, you owe it to people to be involved in the community and with charitable events,” he said. He also began serving as an instructor with Junior Achievement of Central Iowa Inc. last fall, teaching a class of second-graders at George Washington Carver Community School about business and government.

“It’s a great program,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s very exciting watching them learn.”

Stephanie Ganske | Age 39
Registered nurse/licensed electrologist, Schooler Medical Professionals P.C.

Caring, commitment and community involvement are some of the attributes friends and colleagues use to describe Stephanie Ganske.

In addition to providing patient care as a registered nurse and licensed electrologist, Ganske has provided her talents and leadership to several community organizations, among them Broadlawns Medical Center, the Iowa chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Women’s Development Connection.

“She is genuinely a caring person who will go out of her way to offer medical treatment, advice and expertise when and where needed,” wrote Maria Davis, a longtime friend and a member of the 2006 Forty Under 40 class. “She doesn’t hesitate in offering her care at various community events when they’re in need of medical staff on site, as in the struggling beginnings of the Des Moines Marathon to the Iowa State Fair Red Cross tent, to Broadlawns Medical Center taking care of children and/or detox patients.”

Ganske, who has worked at Broadlawns as a nurse, joined the hospital’s board in 2008 and became a member of the Broadlawns Foundation’s executive board this year. She co-chaired the Broadlawns Fall Gala last year and served on the Giving Tree committee in 2007.

For the Iowa chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Ganske’s volunteer efforts have enabled it to grow from a one-person staff in 1995 to its current 13-person staff. “Her efforts have assisted us in the growth of fund-raising revenues from $54,000 in 1995 to approximately $1.9 million in 2008,” Melanie Brown, the chapter’s executive director, wrote in recommending her as a Forty Under 40 candidate. “She has a tremendous ability to communicate the importance of community involvement in nonprofit organizations.”

From 2006 to 2008, she served as program chair of the Women’s Development Connection, which fosters personal and professional development of women in Greater Des Moines, and continues to serve on the program committee. Ganske has also been an active volunteer for Children & Families of Iowa, as well as the Girl Scouts of Central Iowa Troop 677 and St. Francis of Assisi Preschool and School.

Lisa Gobber | Age 39
Associate vice president, Allied Insurance/Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

When Lisa Gobber takes on a task, she’s “totally engaged in body, mind and spirit,” according to the director of one of several charitable organizations for which she volunteers.

Gobber, who has climbed the corporate ladder at Allied Insurance/Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. to become a key executive, also serves in numerous leadership roles for charitable organizations throughout Greater Des Moines, among them United Way of Central Iowa’s Women’s Leadership Connection and Children and Family Urban Ministries (CFUM).

The depth of her commitment would be “remarkable in anyone,” wrote CFUM Executive Director Carmen Lampe Zeitler, “but it is particularly remarkable for a person whose work demands such a high level of responsibility, and thus, precious time.”

Gobber is helping raise the next generation of Iowans to be civic-minded as well, Lampe Zeitler noted. She recently brought her 7-year-old daughter to CFUM to help prepare and serve a community meal for more than 100 people in need. “That kind of engagement given for the benefit of others does not happen automatically,” Lampe Zeitler wrote. “It happens when a child learns from the adults in their lives what is important, what is of value, and that we all have a role to play.”

At Allied, Gobber oversees underwriting for personal and commercial insurance policies in a seven-state region. She joined the company in 1992 after graduating from the University of Nebraska, and worked her way up to her present position in 2003.

“As one of our company’s best and brightest leaders, Lisa oversees Allied’s profitable growth and underwriting practices for both personal and commercial lines in a seven-state region,” wrote Brett Harman, regional vice president. “Her intelligence and outstanding technical expertise combine with her people skills to lead and motivate a team of more than 150 associates.”

In addition to co-chairing the Women’s Leadership Connection at Nationwide, she volunteers with the company’s Smile Squad and organized Nationwide’s Heels and Hammers volunteer project for Habitat for Humanity.

“Lisa does a great job balancing her many professional and civic responsibilities with her role as a wife and mother,” Harman wrote.

Suzanne Heckenlaible | Age 38
Community and government relations director, Delta Dental of Iowa

Suzanne Heckenlaible’s job is to advance programs that ensure good oral health for Iowans, while her volunteer activities promote the vitality of organizations such as United Way of Central Iowa and the March of Dimes.

Heckenlaible has overseen Delta Dental of Iowa’s community and government relations efforts since 2006, and was recently appointed executive director of its foundation.

“Suzanne has been instrumental in the establishment of the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation, including recruiting key oral-health stakeholders to the foundation board and setting up the foundation as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) supporting organization,” wrote Donn Hutchins, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Iowa. “Under her leadership, she has positioned Delta Dental of Iowa as the ‘go-to source’ for oral-health funding, and our annual giving has more than doubled.”

Heckenlaible played a critical role in working with the University of Iowa Foundation to give Delta Dental’s largest gift to date, $1.5 million, in May 2008. The gift will be used to help renovate the university’s Dental Health Sciences Building, which houses the College of Dentistry. She also worked with Iowa’s congressional delegation to secure federal funding to expand Delta Dental’s Loan Repayment Program, which is designed to attract matching funds to assist rural communities in recruiting dentists.

Among her many civic affiliations, Heckenlaible serves on the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Covering Kids & Families Task Force and is a member of the Early Childhood Iowa Stakeholders. She chaired the March of Dimes 2008 chefs’ auction, and is a member of its President’s Society. She also is a member of United Way’s Women of Leadership Connection.

Prior to working for Delta Dental, she was director of field services and public affairs for the Iowa chapter of the March of Dimes.

“It was a pleasure to work with Suzanne and to see how easily she could move between legislators and legislative issues and be equally skilled with the business community, other volunteers and staff,” wrote Michael Helak, regional president of U.S. Bank, who worked with her as a March of Dimes board member. “More importantly, she has a sincere interest in being a part of moving this community forward and being a part of the process.”

Larry James Jr. | Age 36
Attorney, Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen P.C.

Larry James Jr. is an accomplished attorney who can explain the legal intricacies of green building standards as skillfully as he can whip up a grande latte or lead a successful neighborhood revitalization project.

James, who joined Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen P.C. in 2007, has been instrumental in establishing the firm’s Green Business & Sustainability Law Group as an expert in green building practices and renewable-energy law. He’s also a co-owner of Mars Café, a popular coffeeshop near Drake University that he and family members launched in 2006. And while he was a law student at Drake, he spearheaded an initiative to build a retail-loft development near the school.

“Larry has been deeply engaged in the Drake neighborhood and indeed, the Greater Des Moines community,” wrote David Walker, former dean of Drake Law School, “and he has not only provided extraordinary service in that respect but unusually effective leadership.”

As president of the Drake Neighborhood Association, James led a revitalization of the campustown area that included development of the Newens Dairy Lofts, University Place Lofts and University Place Rowhomes.

Recognizing that a key element missing in the neighborhood was a coffeeshop, he launched Mars Café, which has become a popular destination for students and young adults that also promotes local artists and musicians as well as providing activist groups a place to meet.

He recently accepted an invitation to serve on the board of directors of the Des Moines Neighborhood Resource Office, which works with neighborhood associations to improve the quality of life throughout the city by providing education, training and leadership assistance.

James is an active member of the Iowa chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, the Urban Land Institute, the Iowa Wind Energy Association and the Iowa Renewable Energy Association. He is seeking professional accreditation in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which distinguishes professionals with the knowledge and skills to successfully steward the LEED certification process for sustainable buildings.

He also was recently named the 2008 Amy Jennings Young Professional of the Year by the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Young Professionals Connection.

Joseph Jones II | Age 31
Director of governmental affairs, Iowa Finance Authority

Growing up, Joseph Jones II only wanted to do two things: join the military and work for the government. The first dream ended when he hurt his knee while at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School. The second proved much more successful.

Jones boasts a resume that includes political director for Barack Obama’s Iowa presidential campaign, senior communications specialist for Gov. Tom Vilsack’s administration and political director and voter services director of the Iowa Democratic Party. He currently is the director of governmental affairs for the Iowa Finance Authority and teaches American government at Des Moines Area Community College.

Originally from Shreveport, La., Jones was working as a management analyst for the state of Georgia’s Department of Audits and Accounts when he was assigned a difficult audit of the Crime Victims Services unit. He took a leave of absence after that assignment and ended up in Iowa working for John Kerry’s presidential campaign. He enjoyed the state so much that he decided to stay.

Jones said his greatest accomplishment is “working with folks who are capable and highly competent and good at what they do and care about the work they do.”

John McCormally, an assistant attorney general for the Iowa Department of Justice, who worked with Jones in the past, believes Jones contributes a lot to an organization, too: “He was the best kind of co-worker – hard working, creative and fun to be around – making the long days in the office more enjoyable with his enthusiasm and wit.”

Jones takes on a lot of projects outside work as well, including serving as a member of the Windsor Heights Board of Adjustment, past president of the Des Moines 20/30 Society and board member of the Center on Sustainable Communities.

“If it’s a worthy cause and I have the time to do it, I like to get involved with it,” Jones said.

His main focus now is on expanding the Greater Des Moines Rotary Club for Emerging Leaders and helping get service projects off the ground. Part of this work is inspired by a trip he took to India and Pakistan through the 2007 American Council of Young Political Leaders exchange. He also is involved with the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, helping prepare children for an academic competition in which they can win college scholarships.

How does he fit it all in? “I have a very good calendar to remember when something is happening.”

Jon Kallen | Age 37
Manager of environmental policy and strategy, MidAmerican Energy Co.

Over the five years Jon Kallen has practiced environmental law, he has watched it evolve from a compliance check for companies to something that affects all segments of a business. As attorney and manager of MidAmerican Energy Co.’s environmental policy and strategy, Kallen routinely deals with new regulations, litigation and possible legislation that affect or could affect the utility company.

Having earned a bachelor of science degree from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., and a master of science from the department of environmental science and engineering at the University of North Carolina before getting a law degree from the University of Maryland, Kallen loves that his current job “blends science, engineering with legal.” Throughout his career, he’s held a variety of positions dealing with environmental issues, most recently as chief of environmental affairs and compliance for Maryland Environmental Service, before moving to Iowa to join MidAmerican three years ago.

But Kallen said he is most proud of the work he has done for the community. “I’ve only been in Des Moines a relatively short time and am very passionate about being a recent transplant,” he said.

As councilman for the city of Johnston, he is involved in many committees and group work, including economic development, the Johnston Tree Board and the storm water steering committee. He also is going through the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute this year, and is serving on the steering committee for the class project, which is looking at helping with renovations at Broadlawns Medical Center.

To satisfy his competitive side, Kallen is an avid triathlete, competing in Olympic and half-Ironman races. Seeing interest in triathlons in Des Moines has “been a really pleasant surprise,” he said. Kallen also tries to spend time with his family (wife, Joan, and sons Carter, 4, and Andrew, 2) as well as volunteer for St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.

“I have a great wife,” he said. “She bears the lion’s share of the child rearing because I’m gone several nights a week. … It’s just in my DNA. I’m 100 percent full charge. I really am passionate about getting involved and trying to make a difference, as cheesy as that may sound.”

Shawne Kleckner | Age 36
President and CEO, The Right Stuf International Inc.

Kirk Brill realized when he judged Shawne Kleckner’s seventh-grade science fair project – which focused on computers when the first home computers were coming out – that “he was going to be someone special.” As a Southeast Polk High School teacher, Brill watched Kleckner become valedictorian and start his first business, which last year handled $15 million in sales.

The Right Stuf International, which produces and distributes DVDs of Japanese animation and related merchandise, made the Inc. 500 list for fastest-growing private companies in 1999. Today it has 70 employees and sells more than 30,000 products.

While The Right Stuf has grown, Kleckner has worked for several other companies, mainly on the business development side, including a computer networking company that no longer exists and laser tag company Intersphere USA LC. But as of 2004, his focus has been on The Right Stuf. “This business is large enough that it’s difficult to start other things anymore,” Kleckner said.

A lot of his work is dealing with technology differences between Japan and the United States, which Kleckner can handle with a degree in computer engineering from Iowa State University. But his favorite part is selling. “That’s been me all the way since I was a kid,” he said.

Another interest of his stems from Brill’s ecology lessons. In creating a headquarters for The Right Stuf, Kleckner took the Grimes building formerly occupied by Faribault Food Co.’s Mrs. Grimes canning plant and retrofitted it to be a “green facility,” with features such as geothermal heating. “Everyone thought I was insane and natural gas tripled in price and man I was a genius,” Kleckner said.

But he is used to people thinking his ideas are a bit out there. “I get a lot of people thinking I’m nuts,” he said. “That’s OK. It’s certainly an interesting conversation starter.”

Kleckner is so busy with work that he doesn’t have time for a lot of volunteer activities, but he has supported with time and sponsorships events including Reggie’s Sleepout, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa and the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence. His business also sponsors a program that provides work experience to children with special needs from the Dallas Center-Grimes Community School District.

Stacy Kluesner | Age 39
Executive director, “I Have A Dream” Foundation

Stacy Kluesner not only runs a nonprofit organization, but also raises money, volunteers and participates in countless others around Greater Des Moines.

“I love to work and I enjoy being busy and being involved in the community,” she said.

In college, she initially trained to be an accountant, attracted to a handsome starting salary. But she found she was better suited to psychology, and after graduating, gave up a nice salary for a $6 an hour job working at a home for adults with mental retardation. Nearly nine years later, she became a stay-at-home mother for a few years until she realized that she needed to work. So she joined Orchard Place as director of annual giving, and in fiscal year 2008 raised more than $900,000. In November, she became executive director of “I Have a Dream” Foundation.

“The organization is not always known about. It’s really a well-kept secret. … I’m excited to share the story,” she said.

Her main goals are to raise awareness about the organization, which works with a group of children from first grade through high school and then provides them with money for college, and to raise more funds to support a new group of children every five years. Currently, “I Have a Dream” has an annual budget of about $1 million and serves more than 90 children.

“There are a lot of opportunities for growth,” Kluesner said.

Outside of her main job, she is a member of the Westside Kiwanis Club, which has helped raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Miracle League Field. She also is helping friends raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa’s Bowl for Kids’ Sake and is gearing up to walk 50 miles over three days in San Diego this September to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society with a good friend who has that disease. She also serves as a board member of the Central Iowa Association of Fundraising Professionals and a facilitator for Des Moines Area Community College’s volunteer management certification course.

The biggest strength Kluesner brings to all of these groups, she said, is “energy and enthusiasm and then passion for the cause … and probably that I have a horrible affliction for not saying no.”

She also tries to make time for her three sons, ages 12, 4 and 3, and runs and participates in kickboxing classes.

Kara Kohler Hoogensen | Age 35
Strategy director, Principal Funds

Coming out of Central College with a business management degree, Kara Kohler Hoogensen targeted Principal Financial Group Inc. as the company she wanted to work for after hearing about its culture and benefits. In the nearly 12 years she’s worked for the insurer since then, she has been promoted five times, taking on such roles as director of business development, corporate strategic development director and currently, strategy director for Principal Funds.

Because of the variety of Principal’s organizations, she said, “there’s the opportunity to do a lot of different types of work and interact with a lot of different types of people in different ways so you can grow personally and professionally within the organization.”

Her new job – which includes organizing and executing the groups’ strategic initiatives – has had a steep learning curve given the current economic situation and its effect on mutual funds, she said. But, it also “presents unique opportunities when you go through situations like that to learn more quickly.”

Outside work, her activities have focused on two things: mentoring and church.

She is on the steering committee for the Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference to be held this April in Iowa City, leads Principal’s Women’s Network for Leaders, serves on Central College’s economics, accounting and management advisory board and mentors four people at Principal and two students at Central. She also co-chaired Principal’s leadership giving efforts as part of its 2008-2009 United Way campaign, which raised more than $3 million.

She describes her leadership style as being “one who wants to work hard, get in there and work alongside with team members.”

At her church, Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Catholic Church in Ankeny, Kohler Hoogensen teaches Sunday school and serves as a liturgical minister, among many other roles. “It’s a great way for me to not only contribute to my community but it is a way to do it with my family,” she said. This has become especially important as she works full time while her husband, Stephen, stays home to care for their daughters, Kate, 6, and Mallory, 4.

“At first it was a big adjustment for me,” she said, “but I think we found what I think is a really good balance. We each contribute in our own way to the life we have as a family.”

Danielle Marie Kuhn | Age 33
Vice president of accounting, FBL Financial Group Inc.

Four job transitions in about five years has created a challenge for Danielle Marie Kuhn, but she likes to look at it with a positive attitude. “I always kind of use the motto that things happen for a reason,” she said.

After receiving an accounting degree from the University of Northern Iowa, Kuhn worked for Ernst & Young for about five years, until October 2003, when she joined Principal Real Estate Mortgage Inc. Eight months later, after that company was sold to Citigroup Inc., Kuhn joined FBL Financial Group Inc. A year later, she was promoted, and a year after that, promoted again to vice president of accounting. She is the youngest person to become a vice president in the company.

“It was more than I expected, I guess, certainly when I started,” she said.

In her new position, she manages all internal and external financial reporting for the company. Being in the midst of FBL’s annual reporting, which means long, grueling hours, she has set the goal for the department of trying “to get more work/life balance.”

Kuhn has been trying to do the same, taking on many community and leadership activities after having to back off for a while during her job changes. She is heading FBL’s United Way Women’s Leadership Connection committee and as part of this role, she joined United Way of Central Iowa’s Women’s Leadership Connection investment committee. “I thought it was a good opportunity to learn about what they do and see where the funds are directed if we’re going to be actively engaged in that here at the company,” she said. Kuhn also recently became a “wish grantor” for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and has been a classroom volunteer for Junior Achievement of Central Iowa Inc. for a decade.

In addition, she is going through the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute this year, with the goal “to learn about some of the needs that are in our community and really find what some good opportunities are that may need assistance that I can get involved in going forward.”

One thing that helps her keep everything in balance is a regular morning workout. “That’s a big stress reliever for me,” she said. “It’s kind of my wake-me-up for the morning.”

Lance Lange | Age 36
Attorney and shareholder, Belin Lamson McCormick Zumbach Flynn P.C.

Even though Lance Lange knew early on that he wanted to become a lawyer, he took a detour, spending a significant amount of time studying German language and culture after a student exchange trip in high school made him close friends with a family there.

He majored in international relations and German at Stanford University and spent nine months overseas studying in Berlin and working for a legal research institute in Bremen. Then, after being accepted into Columbia University Law School, Lange deferred his enrollment for a couple of years to get a master’s degree in German linguistics from the University of Iowa.

“I still to this day think about the different perspective (studying in Germany) gave me,” Lange said. “I definitely look at things in a different way and just found that to be the value of a liberal arts education.”

Today, Lange’s focus is on commercial litigation as an attorney and shareholder at Belin Lamson McCormick Zumbach Flynn P.C., which he joined in 2004 after working for Winston & Strawn LLP in Chicago for about three years. His work is as diverse as his educational interests, encompassing fields such as antitrust, intellectual property and family law.

“I just like getting into the courtroom, I guess,” he said. “I like the competitive aspect of it.”

Lange also is actively involved in professional organizations, especially as chair of the Iowa State Bar Association Young Lawyers Division’s Know your Constitution Committee. He is an intake volunteer with Iowa Legal Aid and volunteers with the Twenty First Century Forum, Emerging Leaders Initiative of United Way of Central Iowa and the Planned Parenthood Young Leaders group.

But his most passionate activity outside work is serving as a member of the YMCA of Greater Des Moines metro board of directors and the Walnut Creek YMCA board of managers. His interest stems from growing up with a father who worked for the Y in Muscatine and, he said, because “I think they serve the community in so many ways.”

“We’re just very fortunate to live in a community where we have so many opportunities for young people to get involved with organizations like this,” he said. “When I lived in Chicago, I couldn’t have dreamed to be involved with, for example, a YMCA board.”

Despite these commitments, he has found one way to escape: Vegas.

Matt Lundberg | Age 31
Vice president, NAI Ruhl & Ruhl Commercial Co.

Last year may have been the biggest in Matt Lundberg’s life. He closed a deal on a $12 million office and retail development in the Quad Cities, making him the top producer at NAI Ruhl & Ruhl Commercial Co.’s Des Moines office, and he became a Certified Commercial Investment Member – not to mention he also had his first child, Chloe. The trend seems to be continuing this year as he was appointed vice president at Ruhl & Ruhl.

Despite these accomplishments and eight years in the commercial real estate industry, Lundberg said, “I still feel like I’m building my business.”

But he has had some help along the way, growing up with a father, neighbors and family friends who were all in the business.

“Living across the street and growing up with my own children, I have watched Matt develop into an outstanding young man with great potential in his future in the commercial real estate field,” said William C. Knapp II, chairman and CEO of Knapp Properties Inc., in a nomination letter.

After getting a business degree from Arizona State University, Lundberg returned to Des Moines and worked for Ferguson Commercial Real Estate before joining Ruhl & Ruhl. His main focus is on industrial and investment properties. “I like working on investment deals because there’s so many parts to it from the financing to the types of people you’re working with to usually the size of the whole transaction,” he said. “They’re harder and you don’t land as many, but when you do, they’re pretty rewarding.”

Though Lundberg now spends most of his free time at home, with his wife, Kerri, and daughter, he seems to be attracted to activities that involve going “fast.” He raced cars for 10 years, until in 2004, “I figured if I wanted to make any money at real estate, I probably needed to put that one to bed,” he said. But he still has a pilot’s license and flies about once a month.

He also is involved in several community organizations, including helping with the Iowa March of Dimes. This cause is personal for Lundberg and his wife, after losing twins prematurely. He also has taken on several roles in his industry, including treasurer of the Iowa Commercial Real Estate Association and board member of the Iowa CCIM chapter.

Shellie Mackel-Wiederanders | Age 38
Managing attorney, Iowa Legal Aid’s Equal Justice Project

Shellie Mackel-Wiederanders had a blunt introduction to the hitherto unknown world of domestic abuse.

She was working as a waitress while attending the University of Northern Iowa in the 1990s. Some of her co-workers would arrive at the restaurant bearing the bruises of being grabbed, slammed, punched.

“I was stunned,” she recalled. Even more surprising was that the women sported their scars as a testament to their men’s love for them.

“They accepted that as being common male behavior and part of being in a relationship,” she said. “I clearly remember one woman saying, ‘What, your old man doesn’t hit you?’ I remember her saying, ‘He must not love you then; if he’s not jealous, how do you know that he loves you?’ Well, lots of reasons, like he doesn’t punch me.”

Mackel-Wiederanders got her degree in criminology and became the director of the Madge Phillips Center in Cedar Rapids, and later program coordinator for the Domestic Violence Intervention Program in Iowa City. At the same time, she counseled perpetrators of domestic violence as a batterers education group facilitator for the Iowa Department of Corrections in Coralville and Cedar Rapids.

Helping the perpetrators of domestic violence was as rewarding as working on behalf of the victims, she said.

She also decided that she needed extra tools to help victims of abuse, so at age 30, with a son who was not quite 1 year old, she decided to go to law school and attempt to make systemic changes on behalf of women who lacked the wherewithal to leave abusive relationships or construct legal barriers between themselves and their abusers.

After going to work for Iowa Legal Aid as a staff attorney and fund-raiser, Mackel-Wiederanders began to lobby for a program that would focus on battered women and children, leading to the creation of the Equal Justice Project in 2005.

Last year, she won two court cases that expand and defend the rights of abuse victims within the legal system.

Dennis Groenenboom, executive director of Iowa Legal Aid, said the project has the potential to improve the lives of “thousands of domestic violence survivors in Central Iowa and throughout the state.”

Tiffany Menke | Age 33
Executive director, Urbandale Chamber of Commerce

Tiffany Menke has made a career out of promoting Central Iowa and its communities, and that has earned her special recognition.

“Tiffany does not seek honors and recognition but she certainly deserves it. She is an outstanding role model and inspiration to many,” said Craig Light, president of the Urbandale Chamber of Commerce, in nominating Menke for the 2009 Forty Under 40 class.

Since 2004, Menke has been the chamber’s executive director, guiding the organization through a doubling of its membership and launching programs that encourage active participation by its members.

“What created this incredible success and growth? It was Tiffany’s hard, tireless work, terrific, joyful personality, and great ideas and vision,” Light said.

Prior to arriving in Urbandale, Menke was vice president of marketing and tourism for the Jasper County Alliance for Economic Development, where she coordinated activities for the Greater Newton Chamber of Commerce, the Newton Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Newton Development Corp. and the Newton Housing Corp.

While serving those varied organizations, she found time to preside over the Central Iowa Tourism Region, spearhead the rebirth of the Iowa Convention and Visitors Bureau and create the Iowa Meetings Association, which provides one-stop shopping for organizations planning meetings, conventions and other events in the state.

As a result of those efforts, she received the Governor’s Volunteer Award in 2002 and was named the Jaycee Young Iowan of the Year in 2003.

“What sets Tiffany apart is that she is always learning and constantly striving for success,” Light said.

“She certainly is a blessing to our community.”

Julie Moore | Age 37
Director of development, Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Iowa

Julie Moore had worked around the edges of the nonprofit world for the better part of her career in real estate and commercial development when she decided to jump right in.

Moore went to work Feb. 2 as director of development for Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Iowa. On March 3, she will spearhead the organization’s annual fund-raising campaign.

She is undaunted by the task at hand.

“There’s a lot of opportunity and we have such a strong board,” she said. “I’m very optimistic about it.”

Moore is no stranger to pressing ahead with ideas, programs, even a major fund-raising drive.

Prior to joining the Boys and Girls Clubs, Moore was director of client relations for Pinnacle Construction Group, where she created the company’s green commitment and fostered a partnership with Iowa State University to establish Pinnacle scholarships for construction engineering students.

She also organized food drives in Pella and Algona, where Pinnacle had projects.

Last year, Moore launched Synergy, a networking organization for businesses connected with commercial and residential construction. She helped obtain donations of material and labor for Habitat for Humanity’s Hammers and Heels project.

And, maybe for a cultural breather, she serves on the board of Ballet Des Moines, where she has coordinated community outreach events.

Moore said much of her community work has focused on the needs of children. It was only natural, then, that her involvement with the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, particularly her role as curriculum co-chair of the organization’s youth initiative, led her to begin investigating a career change to the nonprofit sector.

The more she discussed her ambition with people in the nonprofit world, the more she was asked, “Have you talked to Sam yet?” Sam is Sam Carrell, executive director of Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Iowa. That meeting led to her career change.

“We’re giving kids a chance to grow up to be you and me,” Moore said.

Joe Nolte | Age 34
Executive director, Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center

To some people, Joe Nolte is the man who cooked up little peanut butter cup cookies at a coffee shop in Cedar Rapids.

To others, he is the man creating community interest in the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center as its executive director.

“People still ask me for some of those little peanut butter cup cookies,” Nolte said. They were made when Nolte took a break from the nonprofit world to dabble in private enterprise.

Nolte is a historian who likes to tell stories about the ordinary people who often get lost in the telling of history. Most of his career has been devoted to fulfilling an ambition spelled out by a mentor.

“He said, ‘We have lost touch with people; we’ve lost touch with the relevance of how people view themselves today.'” Nolte said. “Make history relevant. I’ve never forgotten that.”

To that end, Nolte has written articles with titles such as “Cherished Memories: The Winston Family of Ottumwa” and “Glenwood Tolson: Mountain of a Man,” as well as histories of the Mutual Fire and Automobile Co. of Cedar Rapids and Western Fraternal Life Association.

Prior to arriving in Des Moines last year to take on his role at the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center, Nolte was the executive director of the African-American Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa.

In 2004, he decided he wanted to understand the workings of private enterprise and launched Nolte Distribution, a wholesale and retail company that sold the works of African-American artists and independent publishers. He also launched The Cookie Stop and established a marketing plan for a start-up technology company.

“The products that we had were informed by the work in the nonprofit world,” Nolte said. “On the other hand, work in the nonprofit world was shaped by running my own business.”

Nolte said his mission at the Fort Des Moines Museum is to preserve and tell the stories of the military men and women who were trained and housed at the barracks.

“I enjoy finding the why of how something happened. That’s where I find history having the most value,” he said. “If museums just put up a nice exhibit, they aren’t doing their jobs; they need to interpret. I truly believe that history has the power to transform people.”

Sonia Parras Konrad | Age 39
Co-director, ASISTA

It is important to understand right at the beginning that there is a mutual-admiration society operating at the home of Sonia Parras Konrad.

Parras Konrad, co-director of ASISTA, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Justice to provide legal expertise to attorneys representing immigrants, and particularly immigrant women who are the victims of abuse and human trafficking, brought her legal skills to Greater Des Moines for one reason.

“My incredible, handsome husband,” she answered when asked how she worked her way from her native Spain to Iowa and Greater Des Moines.

Parras Konrad, who is fluent or conversational in four languages and studies in Greek and Latin, was teaching Spanish at Central College in Pella when she met her future husband, Mark.

Mark Konrad said he is so impressed by his wife’s work on behalf of immigrant women and children that he nominated her for this year’s Forty Under 40 class.

“I’m a big fan of her work,” he said. The nomination and award were a surprise.

“I wondered whether I had won a trip to Hawaii,” Parras Konrad said.

Much of her legal work is done free of charge on behalf of women who typically have no idea that they have rights to challenge people who abuse them, either at home or at work.

In addition, Parras Konrad has been representing 70 women who were arrested as part of the immigration raid at Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville.

“I saw a need that wasn’t addressed and I knew that I had the preparation and the capacity to do it without being paid for it, and I just felt compelled to do it,” she said. “I couldn’t see all those children and women being unrepresented and having their rights being violated.”

As a result, she has been able to keep families together in the United States and she has taught them that they have the right “to stand up against their oppressors and perpetrators,” she said.

“My hope is that they can provide for their families, because that is all that they want. I hope that they will not be afraid anymore.”

Bridget Penick | Age 35
Shareholder, Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen P.C.

Bridget Penick’s heart is in the right place, even when her thoughts become a little scattered.

Penick is a shareholder at Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen P.C. Her devotion to the legal profession doesn’t stop with her employer.

She also mentors young women through Brody Middle School’s TGIF (Thank God I’m a Female) Program, volunteers with Children & Families of Iowa’s Farrand House (a residential group home for teenage girls who have suffered abuse or other problems), and is active with Iowa Legal Aid, the HOLA Center and Point of Grace Ministries in Waukee.

Maybe we forgot to mention that she also has three young daughters to keep track of.

It’s juggling family life, a career and community involvement that leave her thoughts a little up in the air at times.

“Try as I might, I admit that there have been days I’ve left a document sitting on the printer at work that I meant to take home and edit that evening. I’ve also forgotten to send snow pants to school on a snowy day,” she wrote in an article for the Iowa Lawyer magazine.

Penick, a magna cum laude graduate of Central College in Pella and a graduate with high distinction from the University of Iowa College of Law, has left a big impression on her peers.

“She has made a big splash by achieving a level of professional success that few attorneys under the age of 40 are able to attain,” Helen Adams, president of Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen, said in a letter recommending Penick for Forty Under 40.

Penick, who specializes in immigration and employment law, was one of the youngest Iowa lawyers selected for the 2008 edition of Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, and she was recently selected for a by-invitation-only honorary society of trial lawyers that consists of less than one-half of 1 percent of all lawyers in America.

Penick credits her ability to balance work and family at least in part to her husband, Wes, who gave up a career as a schoolteacher to be a stay-at-home dad who also has a part-time career as a scout for the Kansas City Royals.

Casey Port | Age 33
Senior project manager, Hubbell Realty Co.

Some lessons you just don’t learn in high school or college, and for Casey Port, one of those was the need to give back to the community.

Port said he learned that lesson while absorbing the corporate culture of Hubbell Realty Co., where President and CEO Rick Tollakson drives home the need to be involved by example, if not iron will.

“You learn a lot through your environment and the culture through which you work,” Port said.

When Tollakson decides to do something, such as build nine homes in nine days for low-income families, Hubbell’s associates know they will be falling into line.

Port will coordinate Hubbell’s plan to build the homes, beginning Sept. 9, in conjunction with Anawim Housing.

As Hubbell’s senior project manager on commercial developments, Port is no stranger to coordinating large, seemingly daunting projects.

In the five years he has been at Hubbell, Port has acted as the staging and logistics manager for the company’s homebuilding project for ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” a job that found him accommodating TV stars as well as contractors and vendors.

He expects an easier time with the Anawim project, partly because it is “on our home turf.”

The Anawim build is part of Hubbell’s philosophy to do something longer lasting than just writing a check for a good cause.

Port also is involved with Rebuilding Together of Greater Des Moines, an organization that provides home fix-up and construction services for elderly and low-income residents.

His involvement with Rebuilding Together came about through another mentor, John Irving, director of relations for Baker Electric Co. and “another person who is just tremendously involved in the community,” Port said.

As an expectant parent, Port soon will deliver some of those lessons on giving at home.

Suzanne Reynolds Arnold | Age 38
Vice president, marketing manager and commercial lines manager, Reynolds & Reynolds Inc.

In the four years that she has been back in Greater Des Moines, Suzanne Reynolds Arnold can sum up her life this way: “Busy, busy, busy.”

And all that busy work adds up to good works.

In a tough economy, she directed the recent Variety – The Children’s Charity telethon that brought in $3.1 million.

“We could not believe it. This community just rallied around the telethon,” Reynolds Arnold said.

Reynolds Arnold left Des Moines in 1989, “never to return,” she said. She enjoyed the “ski bum” lifestyle in Colorado, where she attended college, then took a job in the insurance industry in Chicago.

All the while, her father, Stan Reynolds, was trying to coax her back to Des Moines and the family business, the Reynolds & Reynolds Inc. insurance brokerage.

Marriage and the thought of raising a family were the deciding factors in her return.

“The stars were aligned,” Reynolds Arnold said.

Her interest in community philanthropies was a given. The Reynolds family has been involved in community projects since her youth.

“That’s just the way we were raised,” Reynolds Arnold said.

Since her return, she has been involved with Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Iowa, Blank Children’s Hospital, Blank Park Zoo and Variety, an organization for which she served as president while living in Chicago.

Reynolds Arnold, who has two sons ages 3 months and 2, said she is drawn to programs that benefit youths. Her work with Boys and Girls Clubs is particularly rewarding, she said.

With a demanding career and extensive community involvement vying for her time, “I try to do things efficiently,” Reynolds Arnold said.

“I have meetings at my house. I delegate; I get good teams of people to volunteer. I don’t micromanage,” she said. “I let people do their job. I don’t have to decide what color the napkins are.”

It is easy to find volunteers in Greater Des Moines, Reynolds Arnold said.

“I had forgotten how philanthropic this community is,” she said.

Tyler Riley | Age 34
Principal and architect, FEH Associates Inc.

Tyler Riley started college as a pre-med student, but his heart wasn’t in it. He took a year off, worked at a pizza restaurant, met his future wife and realized that it wasn’t medicine he wanted to pursue. It was architecture.

He had grown up in Davenport as the son of a structural engineer, so building things was familiar territory. And architecture proved to be a great choice. Riley received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Iowa State University in 1999, and by graduation he had already picked up some professional experience as an intern at FEH Associates Inc. in Des Moines.

Riley became a full-time employee at FEH after graduating. After five years, he switched to INVISION Architecture for three years, then returned to FEH. He has been the project architect for renovations and new construction at public schools; served as an associate architect on two projects at Central College in Pella and the public library in Waukee; and was the project manager for a major addition and renovation at the Veterinary Medicine building at Iowa State.

Riley is a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and helps organize the annual convention of Iowa members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in Des Moines.

In addition to his professional duties, he serves on the board of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute and also is a board member for the Kiwanis Miracle League of Des Moines; while a member of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, he played a key role in designing and building the Miracle League baseball field for players with disabilities.

Riley has led numerous downtown architecture walking tours for elementary school children as part of the AIA’s Architecture in the Schools program. He has been an ACE (Architects/Contractors/Engineers) mentor to students at Roosevelt and East high schools.

Riley’s hobbies include woodworking – he likes to make Christmas gifts and some furniture – gardening and remodeling his family’s Ankeny home. He and his wife, Laura, have been married since 1998. They have a daughter, Adisyn, 5, and two sons: Corbin, 4, and Gavin, 15 months.

Stuart Ruddy | Age 38
Attorney, Faegre & Benson

As the first one in his family to go to a four-year college, Stuart Ruddy headed into uncharted waters. “I was happy to get into Loras (College in Dubuque),” he said. “I only applied to one school.”

The experience quickly began to broaden his view of the world, especially with the benefit of a couple of trips to Washington, D.C., for student leadership events – Ruddy served as president of the college’s student senate. After graduation in 1994, the Fort Dodge native moved to the nation’s capital and dove into the world of politics.

He worked for the Iowa governor’s office there, then as a legislative aide to Rep. Tom Latham for a year. Ruddy returned to Iowa to work on Jim Ross Lightfoot’s unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1996, but that was the end of his political phase.

“I was kind of sick of politics,” Ruddy said. “I love public policy, but I don’t have the desire to try to raise millions of dollars.”

So he headed back to Washington and got a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 2001. Ruddy saw the practice of law as a way to “feed my desire to do analytical work and still help people solve problems,” he said.

Ruddy and his wife, Brooke, could have ended up in New York City, where both had job offers, but decided they wanted to raise their family in the Midwest. He took a job at a Milwaukee law firm, stayed five years, and then joined Faegre & Benson’s Des Moines office in October 2006. He devotes most of his professional time to commercial real estate matters.

Ruddy serves on the board of governors of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute and on the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa. “One of the things I’m most passionate about is that kids have an opportunity to see all they can become,” he said of his involvement with young people. “It’s more than a place to go; it’s having people to look up to and things to aspire to.”

Brooke Ruddy, who also hails from Fort Dodge, is the director of marketing at First Federal Savings Bank of Iowa. The couple has two children: Sophie, 4, and Jack, 2.

Brad Schoenfelder | Age 39
Vice president of development, Ryan Companies U.S. Inc.

Brad Schoenfelder arrived in Central Iowa just a year ago, but the nature of his job immediately plunged him into some of the area’s major projects. As the vice president of development for Ryan Companies U.S. Inc., he has worked on the newest building on the downtown campus of Nationwide Mututal Insurance Co., the Iowa Clinic expansion in West Des Moines and the John Deere Credit and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. offices in Johnston.

Schoenfelder, a 10-year Ryan veteran, came here from Cedar Rapids shortly after being selected for the Leadership for Five Seasons Class of 2008, sponsored by that city’s chamber of commerce.

Previously, he worked for General Mills Inc. and for Cargill Inc., a job that took him to North Carolina and Mexico.

Schoenfelder is a South Dakota native and a graduate of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, where he received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

“I’ve never designed a thing in my life,” he said, but he knew he wanted to pursue a career in engineering. That field of study “gave me great fundamentals in terms of problem solving and dealing with technical situations,” he said. “Solving problems is 85 percent of what I do.”

His success at finding solutions led to his selection as the first recipient of the Ryan Iowa Eagle Award, recognizing his success in building lasting relationships, achieving strategic goals and committing to continuous quality improvement.

In his new hometown, Schoenfelder has become active in the Rotary Club of Des Moines, United Way of Central Iowa and Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity.

He and his wife, Tina, have two children: Blake, 6, and Anna, 4.

Schoenfelder is an outdoorsman who enjoys golfing, hiking, upland game bird hunting and kayaking. One trip took him and Tina on a seven-day trek through the Swiss Alps, from one mountain hut to the next.

Still on his list of hoped-for adventures: two weeks of kayaking and hiking through the Patagonia region in southern South America. “I have to convince my boss that I need two weeks off,” he said.

Jessica Thornton | Age 35
Director of strategic advancement, Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates

Jessica Thornton says she still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up, but finding rewarding work definitely is not a problem. Since the spring of 2008, she has worked at Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (I-JAG), and she also serves as a consultant to various nonprofit organizations. In the previous several years, Thornton held YMCA jobs in three cities, including Des Moines, and also worked for the Catholic Tuition Organization and at Kragie/Newell Advertising (now The Integer Group), both here in Des Moines.

“I worked for the Y from the age of 16 until a couple of years ago,” she said. “I just loved that organization. But I was ready to kind of see what else was out there and explore some other avenues.”

A Des Moines native, Thornton spent some time in Copenhagen, Denmark, on a work-study program as a young adult. She followed that with a degree from Carleton College in Minnesota, where she studied psychology, and then got a master’s degree in nonprofit management at Regis University in Denver.

“I had to get the big city and mountain thing out of my system,” she said. “Coming back made me appreciate Iowa even more.”

As the director of strategic advancement at I-JAG, Thornton develops marketing plans, coordinates special events and is accountable for the annual fund-raising goal of $450,000, among other duties.

When she’s not at work, Thornton serves on the YMCA of Greater Des Moines’ Y Camp board of directors, works as a court-appointed special advocate and participates in Leadership Iowa as a member of the class of 2008-2009.

She also has taken part in many YMCA activities and received a number of honors in return.

“Involvement is something I’ve always been passionate about,” she said. “I’m drawn to helping organizations that work with youths. They’re so moldable, so full of hope; you feel like you can make a difference.”

Thornton lives in a Beaverdale house that she has decorated in bold colors and enjoys traveling. A recent highlight was a trip to the Galapagos Islands that she calls “unbelievable.”

As for her career destination, she said, “I don’t know what’s next. It’s an interesting journey, and who knows where it’s going to take me.”

Sadie Trytten | Age 29
Sales and marketing manager, Allegra Print & Imaging

Printer’s ink is in her blood now. Sadie Trytten accumulated four years in the print and mail services department at the University of Northern Iowa, and she’s been in sales at Allegra Print & Imaging since graduating in 2002. “Once you get into printing,” she said, “you never get out.”

Trytten grew up in the small northwest Iowa town of Remsen, and her college career got off to a rough start. She started her studies by attending Westmar University in Le Mars on a volleyball scholarship – but then the school went out of business. She planned to attend the University of Sioux Falls – but that school sent her an outdated schedule and she missed the starting date by two weeks.

So off she went to UNI, where she met her future husband. She moved to Des Moines after graduating, and a friend of a friend led her to a job at Allegra.

Her duties include sales, marketing, advertising and promotion, plus being in charge of the FootPRINT Fund Grant. The grant program is open to nonprofit organizations and provides money to be used toward printing and mailing services.

Allegra Network LLC operates about 450 franchises in the United States, Canada and Japan, and in both 2006 and 2007, Trytten was named one of the company’s top 10 international sales performers in North America. The local outlet has ranked among the top 10 Allegra centers in sales since 2002.

“I try to do five meetings a day during business hours; then at night I’ll do two or three a week,” she said.

Trytten has sunk her roots into Des Moines’ South Side; she has served on the South Des Moines Chamber of Commerce board of directors since 2004 and is the membership chairperson this year.

She’s also a member of Rotary Club Emerging Leaders, the Junior League of Des Moines, the Greater Des Moines Partnership Communications Advisory Council and the Young Professionals Connection. She’s a regular volunteer for causes such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation gala, the Living History Farms golf outing and Rebuilding Together.

Trytten and her husband, Ryan, have two daughters – Torey, 11, and Layla, 2 – and a son, Davin, 5 months.

Gina Vitiritto-Robinson | Age 37
Human resources manager, Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino

As one of four managers in the human resources department, Gina Vitiritto-Robinson helps tend to the needs of 1,400 employees at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona. As if that weren’t enough to keep her busy. Vitiritto-Robinson also works with Easter Seals Iowa’s employability program, teaches Junior Achievement classes, and directs Prairie Meadows’ fund-raising efforts for the annual United Way of Central Iowa campaign.

And if any frustration builds up around that schedule, Vitiritto-Robinson knows how to work it off; she teaches a kickboxing class once or twice a week at Farrell’s U.S. Martial Arts & Fitness in Urbandale.

A Des Moines native, Vitiritto-Robinson received a bachelor’s degree in management, with an emphasis in human resources, from Arizona State University in 1992. She followed that up with human resources law certification from Drake University in 1998, and in 2003 received a master’s degree in education from Iowa State University.

These days, she said, she’s toying with the idea of pursuing a doctorate.

Vitiritto-Robinson began working at Prairie Meadows in 1994 as an employee relations manager. In the spring of 2007, she became a human resources manager.

The position involves managing benefits programs, coaching employees on performance and work issues, ensuring legal compliance within the human relations department and coordinating employee-appreciation activities.

She also works with Easter Seals to bring a group of that organization’s clients to Prairie Meadows two days a month to help with projects and acquire job skills.

Vitiritto-Robinson also works on Disability Mentoring Day, a project of Iowa Workforce Development. She’s on the planning team for Job Skills Day and Job Shadowing Day for Des Moines high school students with disabilities.

She participates with Junior Achievement of Central Iowa Inc. and in 2002 was recognized as the volunteer of the year.

“My original thought was that I wanted to be a psychologist or psychiatrist,” Vitiritto-Robinson said. Even now, “Psychology is kind of what I do in my job. I work with people’s problems.”

Vitiritto-Robinson and her husband, Allen, have two sons: Nico, 10, and Noah, 8.

Stacey Warren | Age 39
Attorney and shareholder, Babich, Goldman, Cashatt & Renzo P.C.

Stacey Warren believes in getting involved. “I really have a hard time sitting by the wayside and just having an opinion,” she said. “I can’t do it. I can’t criticize and not want to be part of finding solutions and making a difference.”

That’s why you find her serving on the Altoona City Council and the boards of Metro Waste Authority and Bravo! Greater Des Moines. Warren also has worked on Altoona’s library, parks and board of adjustment, as well as the Greater Altoona Community Service Campus. A few years ago, she even served as commissioner and president of the Greater Altoona Girls Softball Association.

Combine those efforts with her career as an attorney, and you can see that Warren doesn’t have much spare time.

“My mom keeps telling me I need to learn the word ‘no,'” Warren said. “And my husband realized he needed to find his own hobbies, because I wasn’t really going to change. I have to be doing something.”

Warren grew up in West Des Moines, graduated from Valley High School and then attended the University of Kansas. The day after graduation, she started law school on the same campus.

She began her professional law career in Des Moines in 1995, switched firms in 1999 and joined Babich, Goldman, Cashatt & Renzo P.C. in 2001. She and her husband, Brent Cashatt, are shareholders in the firm, and both specialize in divorce law.

Amid all of her professional and civic responsibilities, Warren has maintained an active connection with her college sorority. “I work with college women, encouraging them in every way possible to get involved with philanthropy and take advantage of opportunities on campus,” she said. “I work with chapters on 15 campuses over eight states in the Midwest.”

Warren also has taken part in numerous committees and campaigns in the Southeast Polk Community School District. She worked on the campaign that resulted in passage of a $60 million bond referendum for construction of a high school and elementary school.

Warren and her husband have two children from his first marriage: Jordan attends the University of Iowa and Alexa is a freshman in high school.

Zhenhuan (Grace) Yang | Age 32
Marketing specialist, Bankers Trust Co.

Zhenhuan Yang, better known these days as Grace, grew up in Chengdu, a Chinese city of 11 million people, and it remained her home through the end of 2003. She graduated from Chengdu University of Science and Technology with a degree in business English and began her career in her home city as a graphic designer and Web site administrator.

Then she moved halfway around the world.

Yang came to Des Moines at the beginning of 2004 and during the following year and a half worked on Web site projects at the Drake University, the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and The Des Moines Register. By the end of 2005, she had received a master’s degree in public administration from Drake.

Three years ago, she went to work full time as a marketing specialist at Bankers Trust Co. Yang works on the company’s Web sites, designs advertisements and marketing materials and assists with community events and services.

In her spare time, Yang works with the Chinese Association of Iowa, a 400-member group that helped her greatly when she arrived in this unfamiliar culture. “When I came here, I didn’t know anybody,” she said. “The association and other friends helped a lot, and I needed to do something in return.” So she serves as a board member, helps plan programs and events, and does the graphic design for marketing materials and events. “It’s fun to design things for something other than work,” she said.

Her efforts brought her recognition as the Iowa Chinese Volunteer of the Year in 2004, the Governor’s Volunteer Award in 2007 and the Chinese Community Contributor Award in 2007.

Yang also has volunteered her time for Gift of Love International Adoption, Iowa Council for International Understanding, Commission on the Status of Iowans of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage, Kids Against Hunger and Network Against Human Trafficking.

In nominating Yang for “Forty Under 40” recognition, Des Moines businesswoman Ying Sa wrote: “She has used her talents … to help the Asian community achieve a dynamic presence in the eyes of the Des Moines community at large. … Her deep involvement (in) various organizations and events has contributed a lot to Bankers Trust’s commitment to volunteerism and diversity.”

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