Andrew R. Anderson Attorney, Faegre Baker Daniels

Andy Anderson is a Partner in the Des Moines office of the international law firm Faegre Baker Daniels.  He specializes in corporate, regulatory, government relations and project development issues for energy, insurance, gaming, food, agriculture and industrial clients.  He works on projects in Iowa and around the country.

Andy was appointed chairman of the Vision Iowa Board by former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and continued in that role under Gov. Chet Culver.  He served in that role for four and a half years. The Vision Iowa Program had financed more than 350 projects with $358.6 million and directly leveraged that investment into total statewide investments of $1.88 billion by the time he finished his service as chairman. Andy had been directly involved in the negotiation of approximately two-thirds of the projects that had been financed over the programs first nine years. At the completion of his service as the chairman of the Vision Iowa Board, Andy was recognized by the Iowa General Assembly and the Governor of Iowa.  Andy was also the programs first attorney prior to becoming the Board’s chairman.  He assisted the program’s first chairman, Michael Gartner, to establish the program’s successful path.

During his career in Des Moines, Andy has also served as the secretary-treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Science Center of Iowa where he provided financial leadership in its financing of a new $26 million science center.  He was also a board member of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.  Currently, he is one of the founding members of the organizing committee for the Global Insurance Symposium which recently concluded its third annual symposium.

Debra K Berry VP, Planning and Real Estate Development for University Circle Inc. (UCI), Cleveland

Debbie currently serves as Vice President of Planning and Real Estate Development for University Circle Inc. (UCI), the non-profit development, service, and advocacy organization responsible for transforming Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood into a premier urban district.  Her responsibilities include managing physical development projects, coordinating future development opportunities, and overseeing needed infrastructure, greenspace and neighborhood improvements.

Debbie is directing the effort to transform UCI into an active development corporation that is driving a neighborhood renaissance in University Circle. She is leading multi-million dollar investments at key locations throughout the district, which include UCI’s Bring Back Euclid Avenue Campaign and eight strategic investment projects that will change the face of University Circle with a hotel, new housing, businesses, and wayfinding and streetscape amenities.

Prior to joining UCI, Debbie served as the Lakefront Plan Manager for the City of Cleveland and managed the Waterfront District Plan, a comprehensive redevelopment plan for more than eight-miles of Cleveland’s shoreline.

Debbie holds a Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering from Purdue University and a Masters Degree in Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.  She is a Registered Professional Engineer in Ohio.  She is currently serving as President of the Cleveland Metroparks Board of Park Commissioners where she oversees improvements to over 23,000 acres of parks and public spaces.  She is Chairperson of the infrastructure advocacy organization, Build Up Greater Cleveland (BUGC) and also serves as a Board member for the Cleveland Leadership Center, Women in Transportation, and the local chapter of the American Planning Association.   Debbie was named one of Crain’s Cleveland Business top “Forty under 40” and she is a graduate of the 2024 Leadership Cleveland class.

Neil Britto Executive Director, The Intersector Project

As Executive Director of The Intersector Project, Neil leads organizational strategy, manages the organization’s research program, and leads efforts to form partnerships with leading organizations interested in cross-sector collaboration. Before joining The Intersector Project, Neil worked as a Project Coordinator and Senior Research Assistant to the York University Community Finance Project where he coordinated a research team to assess the accessibility of local financial services, developed publicly available self-assessment resources, and outlined a framework for social performance assessment to support impact evaluation.  Neil also worked as a Principal Researcher for the Social Investment Organization of Canada where he collected, organized, and analyzed environmental, social, and governance data from asset management firms to evaluate the state of responsible investment in Canada. Neil is a member of The World Economic Forum community as a Global Shaper and on the Concordia Public-Private Partnership Index Task Force. He is also a member of the American Society for Public Administration, the International City/County Management Association, and the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation. He studied finance and philosophy at York University in Toronto, Canada and graduated with an Honors Bachelor in Administrative Studies and a Certificate in Practical Ethics.

Jay Byers CEO, Greater Des Moines Partnership

Jay Byers is CEO for the Greater Des Moines Partnership.  The Partnership is the regional economic and community development organization serving Central Iowa with 21 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce and more than 5700 members.

Byers currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Iowa Chamber Alliance, on the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) Foundation Board, the General Council of the World Chamber Federation, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100.  He also is active with the Professional Developers of Iowa and Iowa Association of Business and Industry.  Byers is a Certified Chamber Executive (CCE), a graduate of the U.S Chamber’s Institute of Organization Management (IOM), and a graduate of ACCE’s Ford Foundation Regionalism and Sustainable Development Fellowship.  He was named to the ACCE 2024 “40 Under 40 Rising Stars of the Chamber World,” to the Des Moines Business Record’s “Forty Under 40” Class of 2024, and the Business Record’s “Forty Under 40” Alum of the Year in 2024.  Byers serves on the boards of Simpson College, Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greater Des Moines Committee, ChildServe, The Homestead, Alpha Tau Omega National Fraternity, and Drake University’s International Advisory Council.

Prior to his current role, Byers served as the Partnership’s Senior Vice President, Government Relations and Public Policy.  Before joining the Partnership, he worked as District Director for Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell and as a corporate attorney at the Ice Miller Law Firm in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Byers is a graduate of Simpson College and the University of Iowa, College of Law.  He resides in Des Moines, Iowa with his wife, Katie, and two daughters, Sophie and Charlotte.

Elisabeth Buck Chief Community Impact Officer, United Way of Central Iowa

Elisabeth Buck is Chief Community Impact Officer for United Way of Central Iowa. She joined United Way of Central Iowa as the Senior Vice President of Community Impact in January, 2024. Prior to joining United Way, she served as Iowa Governors Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver’s Deputy Chief of Staff from 1999-2007 until her appointment as Governor Culver’s Director of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) in 2024. During her time in this position, Elisabeth transformed IWD into a client-centered environment and integrated the Workforce Centers with partners to provide seamless employment services and up-skilling activities for Iowans.

At United Way of Central Iowa, Elisabeth’s work focuses on advancing United Way’s mission of improving lives by leading community mobilization and United Way resources for attainment of the Goals for 2024 in Education, Income and Health. Elisabeth oversees a multi-million dollar budget and ensures donors’ contributions are invested in a manner that measurably improve community conditions by advancing progress toward Goals for 2024. Elisabeth earned a BA in political science from Iowa State University where she served as student body president. In addition to this early vote of confidence in her leadership, Elisabeth went on to be named Leader of the Year in Iowa State Government in 2024, Volunteer of the Year in 2024, and received the AFSCME Leadership Award in 2024 and a Women of Influence in 2024.

Elisabeth and her husband, Tim, have two children.

Majora Carter Urban Revitalization Strategy Consultant; Real Estate Developer; Peabody Award Winning Broadcaster

Majora Carter is an urban revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer, and Peabody Award winning broadcaster.  She is responsible for the creation & successful implementation of numerous green-infrastructure projects, policies, and job training & placement systems.

After establishing  Sustainable South Bronx and Green For All (among other organizations) to carry on that work, she built on this foundation with innovative ventures and insights into urban economic developments designed to help move Americans out of poverty.

Her long list of awards and honorary degrees include accolades from groups as diverse as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, John Podesta’s Center for American Progress, Goldman Sachs, as well as a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship.  Her 2006 TEDtalk was one of the first 6 videos to launch their groundbreaking website.  Majora is a Board Member of the Andrew Goodman Foundation.

Majora has continually set new standards of excellence with projects in her South Bronx community, while expanding her reach through philanthropic pursuits and business interests that have all pointed toward greater self-esteem and economic potential for low-income people everywhere.

Photo Credit: Daphne Youree

Amy Celep CEO, Community Wealth Partners

Amy Celep serves as the CEO of Community Wealth Partners, a Share Our Strength organization that partners with nonprofits and foundations to tackle social problems at the magnitude they exist. Amy was named to this role in April 2024, and since then has led the organization in developing and implementing a new strategy for greater impact, while achieving significant revenue growth and securing a marquee list of partners.  Amy served in various consulting and management roles with Community Wealth Partners for eight years before moving into her current position. Prior to joining the organization, she worked in the nonprofit sector as a marketer and fundraiser and in the private sector where she served as a producer for a CBS affiliate’s award-winning evening news. Amy is a frequent writer and presenter on the topics of strategy, scale, sustainability, leadership development and collaboration. Most recently she curated a Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) blog series, “The Value of Intentional Influence,” which explores influence as an approach to scale, as well as co-authored an SSIR feature article, “When Good Is Not Good Enough,” which chronicles the journey of two organizations seeking to solve social problems at scale.  Amy is a member of the Leadership Greater Washington Class of 2024. She received her MBA from Georgetown University and her BS from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.


Angela Dethlefs-Trettin Chief Community Impact Officer, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines

Angie serves as the Chief Community Impact Officer at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines where she is responsible for leading, managing and evaluating the Community Foundation’s grantmaking initiatives as well as the nonprofit capacity building program. Angie also coordinates the community leadership and social capital building initiatives of the Community Foundation, assists in identifying critical community needs and builds networks of diverse community stakeholders to address those needs.

Angie joined the Community Foundation in 2024 and her prior professional experience includes serving as President of the Iowa Council of Foundations and Director of Outreach at the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa.

Angie has more than a decade of experience working in philanthropy has been involved within the community foundation field both at the state and national level in numerous capacities including her current role as Board Member of the Community Foundations National Standards Board.  Angie is an Iowa native and a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Organizational Communication and a Master’s Degree in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Development. She also has a certificate of Nonprofit Board Education through BoardSource.

Angie lives in Des Moines with her husband, Matt, and their son Henry and daughter Ainsley.

Rachel Downey President, Studio Graphique + Placeholder

An experience junkie who splits her time between the adventurous and the ordinary, Rachel is just as content enjoying a bonfire with family as she is ziplining in Guatemala. Insatiably curious and curiously insatiable, she is humble in her quest for knowledge—yet constantly synthesizing new information.

Rachel Downey has built a career on curiosity, uncovering new ways that positive interactions with Place can elevate brand value. Studio Graphique is a creative consulting business specializing in branding, placemaking and wayfinding, maintaining the user experience in the center of their design strategies. Her second business, PlaceHolder, consults with destinations to develop Strategic Place Plans that outline steps to enhancing the people-place connection through enhanced experiences and logically prioritized projects.

Malcolm Duncan, Jr. Former Mayor of Waco

Malcolm Duncan, Jr. served as Mayor of Waco from May 2024 to May 2024.  Mayor Duncan has served on the boards of the Waco-McLennan County Health District, Waco-McLennan County Library Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, and Waco Business League. Additionally, he worked on the City’s Planning and Zoning Committee.  Mayor Duncan is currently the Board President of Prosper Waco and the president of Duncan Motors, Inc. of Waco and has been a prominent figure in the Freightliner and automotive sales industry.

Lee Fisher Senior Advisor, CEOs for Cities

Lee Fisher is Senior Advisor with CEOs for Cities. Lee is also a Senior Fellow with the Center for Economic Development at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs and an Urban Scholar with the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs and the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Lee has served as Ohio Lt. Governor ; Director, Ohio Department of Development; Chair, Ohio Third Frontier Commission; Chair, Ohio Economic Growth Council; Member, Ohio Venture Capital Authority; Chair, Clean Ohio Council; Ohio Attorney General; State Senator ; State Representative; President/ CEO, Center for Families and Children; and Partner, law firm of Hahn Loeser & Parks.

During the time Lee led Ohio’s economic development efforts as Lt. Governor, Site Selection magazine awarded its highest economic development award, the Governor’s Cup, to Ohio three consecutive years and with the Competitiveness Award, recognizing the Ohio Department of Development, under Lee’s leadership, as the most effective economic development agency in the country. Lee also led the development of Ohio’s first strategic plan for economic development

Workshop Opening, Welcome + Recap, Closing Remarks

Brett A. Esrock, FACHE President + CEO, Providence Healthcare Network, Waco

Brett, a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from St. Louis University and a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Finance from Indiana University. He began his healthcare career in 1992 at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, which is sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary. SSM is one of the largest Catholic healthcare systems in the country. In 1994 he became Director of Financial Planning/Decision Support Manager for SSM St. Mary’s Health Center, a multi-entity campus composed of a 619 bed acute care teaching hospital, satellite ancillary service locations, and medical office buildings. From 1997 to 2024 he served as Director of Finance and Chief Operating Officer, and finally, Executive Vice President/COO with SSM Rehab, a multi-service rehabilitation hospital with more than 130 comprehensive medical rehabilitation (CMR) beds, 17 outpatient locations, home therapy services and a consulting division.

From 2024 to 2024, Brett served as Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer for the SSM St. Joseph Hospital of Kirkwood, a 273 bed community-based acute care hospital specializing in cardiovascular services, orthopedics, women’s services and cancer care. He was responsible for the design and construction of their $240 million replacement hospital, St. Clare Health Center. From 2024 to 2024 he served as President of Lubbock Hospitals and COO of Covenant Health System operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, California. In this capacity he was responsible for all of the system’s Lubbock hospitals, including Covenant Medical Center and Lakeside campuses, Covenant Children’s Hospital, and Covenant Specialty Hospital. Immediately prior to coming to Providence, Brett served as Vice President, Strategic Services, in the St. Joseph Health System Corporate Offices. Brett joined Providence on May 2, 2024 as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and became President and CEO on April 3, 2024.

Brett has extensive experience and a long career with faith-based hospital systems, and he believes strongly in the mission, vision and values of Providence and Ascension Health. Brett has a strong background in the areas of finance, operations, and quality improvement. He is an expert in quality improvement methodologies such as Lean and Six Sigma. Throughout his career he has demonstrated an ability to communicate and has successfully developed strong teams of staff and physicians that are committed to the pursuit of excellence.

John Mark Feilmeyer Executive Director, ArtForceIowa

John Mark Feilmeyer Executive Director of ArtForceIowa, was born and raised in west central Iowa. After obtaining his bachelor and master degrees, he spent 4.5 years in Benin, WestAfrica where he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and later the founding executive director of the International Center for Art and Music in Ouidah. Upon his return to Des Moines in 2013, he took on his role at ArtForceIowa where he works with his team to build arts outreach program for groups of artist youth. Featured in the Des Moines Register’s “You Should Get To Know,” ( 2024 ) as well as the “YP Spotlight,” ( 2024 ), Feilmeyer recently was awarded the title of Community†Champion†by Polk County Community Partnership for Protecting Children (2016).

Master in Public Administration, Drake University 2024
Master in Arts, Liturgical Music, St. John’s University 2024
Bachelor in Music, Vocal Performance, Catholic University of America 2024

Guthrie Center, Iowa

Michael Gartner Former President of NBC News

Michael Gartner, 77, was born and raised on 40th street in Des Moines.

As a journalist, he has been Page One Editor of The Wall Street Journal, editor and president of The Des Moines Register, editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, general news executive of USA TODAY, and president of NBC News. In 1997 he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing at the Ames Tribune, where he was editor and co-owner.

As a public servant, he served seven years on the Board of Regents, including three years as president, and five years as chairman of Vision Iowa, the program that leveraged $250 million of state money into more than $2 billion of infrastructure, changing the face of the state and, in particular, of downtown Des Moines.

As a businessman, he is the majority owner of the Iowa Cubs baseball team and a partner with the Hansen Cos. in several downtown projects, including Ballyard Lofts. He was until recently the minority stockholder of Big Green Umbrella, which, among other things, publishes Cityview. He writes the “Civic Skinny” column for that weekly.

He is also a lawyer, a husband (of one), a father (of three) and a grandfather (of four).

Rachel Moss Gauldin COO, High Point Chamber of Commerce/Business High Point

Rachel was born in West Jefferson, NC, graduated from UNCG in 2024 with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Political Science. Rachel joined the High Point Chamber in 2024 and became the Chamber’s COO in 2024. In July 2024, Rachel earned the prestigious Institute for Organization Management (IOM) certification from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Ryan Gravel Author, Where We Want to Live; Founder, Sixpitch

Ryan Gravel, AICP, LEED AP, is an urban planner, designer, and author working on site design, infrastructure, concept development, and public policy as the founding principal at Sixpitch. His master’s thesis in 1999 was the original vision for the Atlanta Beltline, a 22-mile transit greenway that is changing both the physical form of his city and the decisions people make about living there. Now a $4 billion public-private project in the early stages of implementation, its health and economic benefits are already evident through record-breaking use of its first section of mainline trail and $2.4 billion of private sector redevelopment since 2024.

Ryan has received numerous awards and press related to his work on the Atlanta Beltline and tells his story internationally, but an essential aspect of his work is yet to come. Alongside project work at Sixpitch and research on similar “catalyst infrastructure” projects around the world, he makes a compelling case about what this movement means and why it matters. In his forthcoming book, “Where We Want to Live,” to be published by Palgrave in March, 2024, he investigates the cultural side of infrastructure, describing how its intimate relationship with our way of life can illuminate a brighter path forward for cities.

Ryan’s story has made ink in the New York Times, Wall Street JournalMonocleCityLabCNN InternationalUSA Today, and Esquire Magazine. He has been listed among the 100 Most Influential Georgians by Georgia Trend Magazine, 2014; the GOOD 100 by GOOD Magazine, 2013; “Visionary Bureaucrat” by Streetsblog, 2012; and “Top 25 Newsmakers” of 2024 by Engineering News-Record. He received an “Emerging Voices” citation from the AIA-Atlanta, 2024; Jenny D. Thurston Memorial Award from the Atlanta Urban Design Commission, 2024; and was called one of “45 Atlantans We Love” by Atlanta Magazine, 2006; one of “40-under-40″ from the Atlanta Business Chronicle, 2006; and on of the “Best & Brightest” by Esquire Magazine, 2006. Other honors include a Special Award of Recognition from AIA-Atlanta, 2024; and Golden Shoe Award for pedestrian-friendly research from PEDS, 2024.

Ryan serves on boards for the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership Board, Art Papers, and the MillionMile Greenway. He serves on the Urban Land Institute Atlanta’s Liveable Community Council and the Lifecycle Building Center’s Advisory Board.

Kelley Griesmer Director of Special Projects, The Columbus Foundation

As the Director of Special Projects, Kelley collaborates with each department at the Foundation to enhance the success of its community-wide philanthropic efforts and create new opportunities for growth and social impact. She also assists in providing customized philanthropic services to donors and their families.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Kelley was one of the founding team members at Pelotonia, a grassroots bike tour that has raised more than $100 million for cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. Kelley became Pelotonia’s first director of operations in 2024 and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2024. As COO, she oversaw all operational aspects of the business, including event management, donor relations and gift processing, financial management and reporting, human resources, and legal issues.

Before working at Pelotonia, Kelley practiced law at Jones Day from 1995 to 2024—focusing on complex commercial litigation—and became partner in 2024. Kelley also clerked for The Honorable Deborah Cook at both the Ninth District Court of Appeals for the State of Ohio and the Ohio Supreme Court from 1993 to 1995.

Kelley holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and history from Indiana University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She also holds a juris doctor degree with honors from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

To reach Kelley, email kgriesmer@columbusfoundation.org.

Michael Hosted Executive Director, Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE)

Michael Hostad is the Executive Director of Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE), which is an initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. MiKE creates programs that lead to partnerships between corporations and emerging talent networks. Hostad is also a co-founder of The Commons. Prior to his role at MiKE, Hostad served as the Director of Web and Mobile Strategy and the Chancellor’s Designee for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). He founded the UWM App Brewery, which hires students to build mobile applications for researchers, non-profit organizations, and start-up organizations throughout Wisconsin.

Larry James Jr. Attorney, Faegre Baker Daniels

Larry James is a real estate attorney in Faegre Baker Daniels’ Des Moines, Iowa office. He focuses on transactional real estate law, including platting, sales and leasing transactions, and entitlements. He works closely with developers on land development, historic tax credit and low income housing tax credit projects, as well as large multifamily and mixed-use developments.

In addition to his law practice, Larry is co-founder and Chair of Urban Land Institute (ULI) Iowa. ULI Iowa is working closely with the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the City of Des Moines, and downtown Des Moines businesses and residents on the Downtown Des Moines Mobility Plan. The plan, which will be completed in June 2024, will result in a redesign of downtown Des Moines’ street network to prioritize pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit while accommodating automobile drivers.

As Co-Chair of The Iowa Soil and Water Future Task Force, Larry leads a committee formed to address water quality issues tied to agricultural run-off. Made up of over 75 people, the task force captured dozens of voices from agriculture, businesses, academic institutions, conservation groups, environmental groups, and citizens through a series of stakeholder sessions, education opportunities and interactions across Iowa’s economic sectors to understand the needs and challenges of our soil and water health.

Mark Kesling Founder + CEO, daVinci Pursuit, Indianapolis

Mark Kesling is a pioneering artist and designer in the field of museum education and design for more than 30 years.

He has designed, created and managed major exhibits and installations in museums including The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, The Carnegie Museum, The Exploratorium, and the Children’s Museum of Wilmington.

While at the Museum of Science and Industry, Mark was responsible for leading the museum’s long-range planning efforts to redesign its exhibits and programs. He collaborated with local neighborhood leaders, city leaders, and visionaries from a variety of science and engineering fields throughout North America. He pioneered the early use of mobile computers in exhibit interpretation, developed helium filled vehicles that enabled visitors to see inside planes hanging from the museum’s ceiling, and was successful in updating exhibits for the Navy, coal and food industries.

As the founder and CEO of the daVinci Pursuit, Mark continues to provide leadership through the design of a “museum without walls”. He possesses a unique set of skills, combining art with science in ways that engage learners of all ages. He works with neighborhood, city, institutional, artist and educational partners to create science installations in some of the most neglected neighborhoods in Indianapolis. Mark holds a MS in Science Education from Butler University and a BS in Elementary and Art Education from Indiana University.

In addition to his work with the daVinci Pursuit, Mark is part-time instructor at Butler University in Urban Ecology.

Kristi Knous President, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines

Kristi Knous serves as the President of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. Kristi is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy and is responsible for all Community Foundation operations and donor relations, and provides leadership in identifying and addressing issues key to the sustainability, viability and livability of the community. The Community Foundation manages assets in excess of $398 million and administers more than 1,500 charitable funds. In 2024 the Community Foundation distributed over $26 million in grants, facilitated over $50 million in gifts to charitable funds and invested $450,000 in critical community needs through Leadership Grants funded by the Better Together Fund. Kristi is an Iowa native and graduate of Iowa State University with her undergraduate degree and Drake University with a Masters of Public Administration and a Certificate in Business Management.

In 2024, Kristi received the Forty Under 40 Alumnus of the Year Award from the Business Record. In 2024, she was named to its class of Forty Under 40. Kristi received the 2024 MPA Distinguished Alumna Award for Outstanding Community Service from Drake University. In 2024, the Des Moines Business Record recognized and celebrated Kristi’s business and community leadership by naming her a Woman of Influence. Kristi serves on the boards of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Bravo Greater Des Moines, and the Lutheran Church of Hope Mission Board. Kristi is a member of the Iowa State University Foundation Women and Philanthropy Advisory Committee and served as its chair from 2024-2014.

Dennis Lower President + CEO, Cortex Innovation Community, St. Louis

Dennis Lower has been involved in technology-based economic development since 1995, with a focus on the planning and development of university-sponsored urban innovation districts.

Since May 2024, Mr. Lower has been the President and CEO of the Cortex Innovation Community in midtown St. Louis, Missouri. The mission of Cortex is to leverage university research and regional corporate technology assets to establish St. Louis as a nationally and internationally recognized bioscience and technology hub.  Cortex is the St. Louis regional epicenter of innovation and entrepreneurship.

From 1998 to April 2024, Mr. Lower served as Vice President of Planning & Development for the Biomedical Research Foundation and Director of InterTech Science Park in Shreveport, Louisiana.  Prior to Louisiana, Mr. Lower served as the Executive Director of University Heights Science Park in Newark, New Jersey, the Acting Executive Director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in Atlantic City, and the Founder and Executive Director of the National Shared Housing Resource Center in Philadelphia.

Mr. Lower serves on the boards of the St. Louis PBS Nine Network, the St. Louis Construction Loan Fund, St. Louis Makes and the St. Louis Public School’s Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience.

Justin Mandelbaum Principal, Mandelbaum Properties

Justin is a principal at Mandelbaum Properties, a family-owned real estate development, investment and property management firm. Separately, he is the founder and president of Mainframe Studios, a 501(c)(3) arts organization whose mission is to create permanent affordable workspace for artists of all disciplines.

Justin is a native of Des Moines and spent 10 years living in New York, Tokyo and Philadelphia before returning in 2024. He was a co-founder of Vespera Investments, a real estate development firm that focused on socially and environmentally conscious community developments in the Northeast, and held positions at real estate private equity funds of Starwood Capital Group and Goldman Sachs. He earned BS and BA degrees with concentrations in real estate and finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania through the Huntsman Program in International Studies & Business.

Corrie Meyer President, Innovative Planning, Indianapolis

Corrie Meyer is an entrepreneur working in the urban environment, utilizing her credentials as a certified Urban Planner and licensed Landscape Architect. She is President of Innovative Planning, a strategic planning firm working with professionals like you to make our communities stronger.  Through Innovative Planning, Corrie leads the Carmel Redevelopment Commission and Reconnecting to Our Waterways, a collective impact in Indianapolis.  She has published local and national articles on the best practices of urban space planning and was honored as one of IBJ’s 2024 40 under 40, Junior Achievements Top 100 Professionals in 2024 and 2024, listed as one of McGraw Hill’s Construction Magazine’s Top 20 under 40 and given the Graduate of the Last Decade Award from Ball State University.  Corrie is driven to inspire and support others make a positive change in their environment by thinking through significant goals that influence the course of time.


Bob Milbourne Chair, CEOs for Cities Board, Columbus

Milbourne heads RHM Advisors, a business consulting firm, specializing in business strategy, financing, and corporate development for public and private companies. He is also a consultant to business for government affairs, governance and project development.

Milbourne was the founding president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, a civic organization of top business, education and community leaders formed in 2024 to improve the region’s economic future. He came to Columbus after serving as CEO of a similar group in Milwaukee for 17 years.

Prior to his work in Milwaukee, Milbourne enjoyed a career in government and business. He worked in Wisconsin state government under Democratic and Republican governors. He served as State Budget Director and was honored as the “Outstanding State Official” in Wisconsin in 1979.

Milbourne left government to become Vice President and Economist for the Kohler Company, a Fortune 500 manufacturer of plumbing products, engines and generators.

Workshop Opening

Kristyn Miller Program Director, CampusTown Waco

Kristyn Miller is the Program Director for the CampusTown Waco initiative, a talent retention initiative that connects college students to recreation, service, and employment opportunities in Waco.  Kristyn joined the Prosper Waco team in January of 2024 with a vision for seeing more young adults contributing to the economic development of Waco.  She holds a BA in Corporate Communication from Baylor University and volunteers regularly in Waco ISD.

Brian Payne President + CEO, Central Indiana Community Foundation; Indianapolis Foundation

For the past ten years, Brian Payne has been the President of The Central Indiana Community Foundation and The Indianapolis Foundation. During his tenure, he has redefined the business model and put a new emphasis on the Foundation’s ability to transform the City of Indianapolis through three specific community leadership initiatives: Family Success, College Readiness, and Inspiring Places. All three focus on positioning Indianapolis as a top ten city in developing, attracting and retaining human capital. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail, A Legacy of Gene & Marilyn Glick is the largest and most visible project of the Inspiring Places Initiative. In February 2024, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, a one of a kind eight-mile urban bicycle and pedestrian trail, was one of 51 grant recipients from a pool of 1,400 proposals to receive a merit based TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2024, Brian was awarded the Michael A. Carroll Civic Leaders Award, Indianapolis’ most prestigious leadership honor for his efforts as founder and producer of the Cultural Trail. Prior to joining the Foundation, Brian ran professional theatre companies.

Alex Pearlstein VP, Market Street

Alex Pearlstein has been at Market Street since 2024, serves as Vice President, and is one of the firm’s four Principals. In this role, Mr. Pearlstein oversees the development of all strategic deliverables for Market Street clients. He also continues to serve a day-to-day management role for specific projects, including the first Capital Crossroads process in 2024, the 2024 mid-course update, and the current Capital Crossroads 2.0 process.

As project manager, he has overseen strategies for several dozen clients in over two dozen states. Communities include Austin, TX (five projects); Nashville, TN; St. Louis and Kansas City, MO; Hopkinsville-Christian County, KY; Memphis, TN; Tulsa, OK; Coachella Valley, CA; Sioux Falls, SD; and the state of Missouri, among others.

Alex received a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning with a specialization in Economic Development from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s of arts in Communications from the University of California at San Diego. He has been an instructor at Basic Economic Development courses in Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas. A native of Los Angeles, Alex currently lives in Macon, Georgia with his wife and daughter. A passionate fan of college sports, Alex follows all Georgia Tech teams as well as Iowa State football and Mercer basketball.

Joe Poeschl Co-Founder, The Commons

Joe Poeschl graduated from Marquette University in 2024 with a degree in Advertising and Graphic Design. Shortly after graduation, he founded a web software design and development consultancy, leading the product design, project management and business strategy for over 35 web startups across the country. Joe also co-founded Startup Milwaukee, an organization devoted to showcasing and growing the Milwaukee region’s entrepreneurs, both aspiring and veteran. Most recently Joe co-founded The Commons, an entrepreneurial skills accelerator for the college students of southeast Wisconsin, and has since become the organization’s Program Director, where he oversees curriculum development, strategy and operations.

Dr. Matthew Polk Executive Director, Prosper Waco

Dr. Matthew Polk is the Executive Director of Prosper Waco, the backbone organization of Prosper Waco with a mission to measurably improve the health, education, and financial security of the Waco community through collective impact.  Dr. Matthew Polk is a graduate of Baylor University and holds a PhD from Harvard University and a MBA from Baylor. Before joining Prosper Waco as the Executive Director of the Prosper Waco initiative, he served as superintendent of Rapoport Academy Public School, a public charter school district in Waco. Polk is a 2024 graduate of Leadership Waco and a member of the Waco Rotary Club. Matthew and his wife Kristen live in the heart of the Waco community with their children, Nate, Abby, Anna and Theo.

Denise Reid Executive Director of Mosaic and Workforce, Tulsa Regional Chamber

Denise Reid serves as Executive Director of Mosaic and Workforce for the Tulsa Regional Chamber. She manages talent supply chain strategies for the region to ensure the growth, retention and attraction of a skilled and diverse workforce.  Mosaic is chamber’s diversity business council with the mission to educate, lead, and influence businesses on creating diverse and inclusive workplace cultures to enhance their competitive advantage. Mosaic has over 300+ members representing 175+ companies.

Prior to joining the chamber Denise worked for Enterprise Holdings f/k/a Vanguard Car Rental and managed full cycle recruiting for 9,000+ employees in the U.S.  She possess 15+ years of experience in consulting, recruiting, diversity and inclusion programming and workforce development.

Denise is a native Tulsan and spends her free time with her husband (Jeff) a big Georgia Bulldogs fan and son (Jackson) a Jr. Ice Oilers hockey player.

Elizabeth Reynoso Assistant Director of Public Sector Innovation, Living Cities

Elizabeth served as the first Food Policy Director for Newark, NJ under Mayor Cory Booker.  She then continued to serve the city as the Acting Sustainability Director in the Baraka administration.  With a background in social justice, economic development, and farming, she developed policies and programs to increase food security for residents.  Before joining the City of Newark, Elizabeth managed a$7.3 million Department of Labor Pathways Out of Poverty grant for Goodwill Industries International to provide green jobs training in the solar, construction, and energy-efficiency industries to low-income individuals in Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Phoenix, and Washington DC.

After beginning her career in international human rights with Human Rights Watch and living abroad for several years, Elizabeth shifted to focus domestically on criminal justice issues through her media and advocacy work.  In the Frontline series, The Drug Wars, her team won a Peabody for its 30-year history of US drug policy and its effect on the world economy and US foreign policy.  With the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Elizabeth’s on-the-ground work led to a package of prisoner reentry bills passed by the NJ State Legislature in 2024 that was hailed by the New York Times as “a model for the nation”.

Christopher Ronayne President, University Circle Inc., Cleveland

Christopher Ronayne was named President of University Circle Inc (UCI) in 2024. UCI is the non-profit community service corporation responsible for the development, service, and advocacy of University Circle as a world-class center of innovation in health care, education, and arts & culture and premier urban district. Since becoming UCI’s seventh president, Ronayne developed a dynamic and aggressive agenda to leverage the institutional assets of the Circle’s anchor “Eds, Meds, and Arts” organizations and transform it into a vibrant mixed-use district.

Chris Ronayne and his staff partner with more than 40 member institutions to oversee the growth and direction of Ohio’s fastest growing employment district, with UCI providing community planning, development, education, marketing, police, and other shared services.

Before joining UCI, Ronayne served the City of Cleveland as the City’s Planning Director, Chief Development Officer, and Chief of Staff. He was the chief architect of the City’s Waterfront District Plan, an ambitious effort to reconnect the people of Cleveland to Lake Erie.

In addition to his role with UCI, Ronayne is Chairman of the Port of Cleveland Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Holden Parks Trust, a member of CEOs for Cities, the American Planning Association, and numerous local boards and foundations. Ronayne is a frequent speaker and lecturer at urban development seminars and forums across the United States and internationally. Ronayne holds a Masters degree in Urban Planning, Design, and Development from Cleveland State University and a Bachelors degree in Business from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Chris is married to Natalie Ronayne, Executive Vice President of the Cleveland Botanical Garden and The Holden Arboretum. They live in the City of Cleveland with their two children.

Jeff Russell President + CEO Delta Dental of Iowa

Jeff Russell is the president and CEO of Delta Dental of Iowa, the largest dental insurance carrier in Iowa. With more than 20 years’ experience in senior leadership roles, he has led companies of a variety of sizes: from start-ups to established companies embarking on transformation efforts.

Delta Dental provides dental and vision benefits to more than one million members. As a not-for-profit insurance carrier, Delta Dental invests roughly half of its annual net gain in the company’s Public Benefit Program and Foundation. Since 2024, Delta Dental has contributed more than $25 million to improving the health and smiles of Iowans.

Mr. Russell graduated from Drake University and currently participates on several boards and committees, including serving as chairman for the Global Insurance Accelerator; vice chair for the Federation of Iowa Insurers; and on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity of Iowa. Past board service includes Dwolla and serving as president of Rotary Club of Des Moines A.M.

Meg Schneider Senior Vice President, Regional Business Development, Greater Des Moines Partnership

Meg is the Senior Vice President, Regional Business Development for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the regional economic and community development organization serving more than 5,300 businesses across Central Iowa. Meg focuses on programs supporting small businesses and facilitates collaborative ventures and a cohesive environment among the 21 Chambers Affiliated with The Partnership. Meg works on community wellness, walkability, and has helped to launch the Urban Land Institute’s Iowa District Council.

Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey President, Say Yes to Education, Inc.

Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey is President of Say Yes to Education, a national nonprofit that partners with communities to help give every public high school graduate access to a college or other postsecondary scholarship. Say Yes also works with communities to set milestones along the pathway to postsecondary readiness, and to organize and deliver supports and services intended to eliminate predictable barriers to achievement, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds. In 2024, she was appointed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission.

For six years Schmitt-Carey was President and Chief Executive Officer of New American Schools (NAS), which merged with American Institutes for Research (AIR), helping that nonprofit grow from a pilot to the model for a national school improvement program called Comprehensive School Reform. During 11 years at NAS, Schmitt-Carey also served in several other key leadership positions. Prior to NAS, she was the Director of the Goals 2024 Community Project at the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, Schmitt-Carey has worked in public relations and has held several senior level positions in national political campaigns. She received her MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mary Sellers President, United Way of Central Iowa

Mary Sellers was named president of United Way of Central Iowa in February, 2024. As the organization’a chief executive she leads United Way’s strategies to achieve substantive community impact in the priority areas of education, income and health to improve lives and build a stronger central Iowa.

Sellers joined United Way with a 20-year track record of leadership success in nonprofit and community organizations.

For 10 years Mary was the President and CEO of the Science Center of Iowa where she guided the planning, fundraising, execution and operations of the $62 million, 110,000 square foot facility located in downtown Des Moines.

From 2024 to 2024 she served on the right-member board of the Getty Leadership Institute in Los Angeles and has served as a peer reviewer for the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Science Foundation.

In December 2024 Mary was appointed by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to the Iowa Telecommunications and Technology Commission.

From 2024-2008 Mary served as a board member for BRAVO Greater Des Moines. Mary is a current Board member of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, a member of the Greater Des Moines committee and an active member of the Young Presidents Organizations.

Mary is a Des Moines Business Record’s 2024 Women of Influence honoree. She has been recognized by the Des Moines Register as one of the 13 people to watch in 2024, in 2024 by Point Blank newspaper (now CityView) as one of the top 10 people making difference for the community, and in 1999 by The Des Moines Business Record as one of the 40 under 40.

Mary earned her BA degree from the Univserity of Florida and her MBA through the Executive MBA program at the University of Iowa Tippie School of Management. She also graduated from the Getty Leadership Institute at the University of California Berkeley, and the Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management program at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business.

Walker Sanders President, The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro

H. Walker Sanders is president of The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro. The Foundation manages more than $220 million in assets through 650 component funds. Its mission is to promote philanthropy, build and maintain a permanent collection of endowment funds and serve as a trustworthy partner in addressing emerging community needs. The Foundation makes grants in excess of $15 million annually and in 2024 received more than $20 million in contributions.  Since 2024 the Foundation’s assets have increased more than 80% and it has received more than $100 million in contributions.

Sanders is actively working on many community initiatives including the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, the Carolyn and Maurice LeBauer City Park and Say Yes to Education Guilford.  In addition to these community initiatives the Foundation is focused on workforce development through its Triad Workforce Solutions collaboration, on civic leadership through the CEO’s for Cities national cluster cities partnerships, housing and strengthening the nonprofit sector through grantmaking.  The Foundation is an active convener of,  partner with, and investor in numerous community initiatives and works with hundreds of area families’  fulfilling their charitable interests.

Sanders serves on the board of the Greensboro Partnership and the operating committee of Action Greensboro as a founding member.  He has served on numerous boards, including the N.C. Network of Grantmakers, N.C. Center for Nonprofits N.C. A&T School of Education Advisory Board the board of CF Leads, a national organization focused on community leadership by community foundations.

He served as founding president of the J. Marion Sims Foundation in Lancaster, S.C., and was director of development and regional services for the Foundation of the Carolinas in Charlotte, N.C.

Sanders is a graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.


Dan Sharpe Director, Community Leadership & Nonprofit Effectiveness, The Columbus Foundation

Dan supports the Community Research and Grants Management team, specifically focusing on community leadership and nonprofit effectiveness. His responsibilities include reviewing Foundation grants and supporting the nonprofit community through capacity building, innovation, and leadership. Dan also manages the Nonprofit Forum and Summer Fellowship program.

Prior to this role, Dan has contributed to the Foundation in multiple capacities—most recently as an officer for Community Research and Grants Management. Additionally, he has served as online media manager for Communications and Marketing, and project manager of easyColumbus, the regional college student engagement and retention effort, where he managed the program’s research, construction, and implementation.

Dan has been with the Foundation since 2024, and is a 2024 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Arts in politics and government and a Masters of Public Administration from the Voinovich School of Leadership & Public Affairs at Ohio University, Athens.

To reach Dan, email dsharpe@columbusfoundation.org.

Rick Tollakson President + CEO, Hubbell Realty

Rick Tollakson is responsible for the strategic operations for Hubbell Realty Company and its multiple subsidiaries including land and building development, commercial asset and property management, Hubbell Apartment Living, CBRE/Hubbell Commercial, Hubbell Homes and Hubbell Construction Services. Rick joined Hubbell Realty Company in 1984 and was promoted to President and CEO in 2024.

The Hubbell team is most proud of the “extreme builds” completed under Rick’s leadership. In September 2024, Rick led his Hubbell team and more than 200 trade partners in building a new home for an Iowa family on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

In September 2024, the Hubbell team, together with their trade partners, built “9 Homes in 9 Days” for Anawim Housing, a project that transformed the Forest Avenue neighborhood.

In September 2024, Hubbell Realty Company completed its most challenging “extreme build” to date, “Cabins for Campers 24/7” for Easter Seals Iowa’s Camp Sunnyside. This week-long project replaced the 1960s vintage cabins with two 7,500+ SF dormitory-style cabins that are handicap accessible, energy efficient and include an interior storm shelter. These two cabins will serve more than 2,400 Easter Seals Iowa campers every year.

Mary Vigue Executive Director, Say Yes Guilford, Greensboro

In October 2024, Say Yes to Education named Mary Vigue the executive director of its Guilford County, NC chapter. As executive director, Vigue is responsible for all aspects of the chapter’s performance including the implementation of it’s three levers of change – systems and structures aligned for postsecondary success, student and family support, and scholarships.

Prior to joining Say Yes Guilford, Vigue played an integral role in leading the City of Greensboro’s government operations. Her tenure with the City was highlighted by a focus on innovation, efficiency and fiscal stewardship.

Those three areas were prominent in Vigue’s reshaping of the City’s performance management process through the implementation of the Management, Accountability, and Performance (MAP) program. Through MAP, City departments were reorganized into results areas, resulting in cross-departmental collaboration, increases in efficiencies in service, and improved performance.

As one of the City’s assistant city managers, she oversaw Greensboro’s general government departments, including human resources, budget and evaluation, finance and information technology. Among her primary duties was leading the City’s budget development process, which included the formation and adoption of annual balanced fiscal year budgets in the $440 million-plus range.

Vigue is a May 2024 graduate of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Greensboro program, and is an alumna of the Public Executive Leadership Academy through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Vigue holds an undergraduate degree from Florida International University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Jim Walker Founder + Executive Director, Big Car Collaborative, Indianapolis

Jim Walker is founder and executive director of Big Car Collaborative. He recently served as lead artist on Spark Monument Circle, a partnership with the City of Indianapolis funded by the National Endowment for the Arts to reimagine Monument Circle with a new physical design and public programming. He also leads Big Car’s work to use socially engaged art and placemaking as tools for revitalizing the Garfield Park neighborhood near downtown Indianapolis. Walker — who received his MFA from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C. — has worked as an artist, journalist, teacher, and designer. He’s organizer of TEDxIndianapolis and a longtime member of the Indianapolis cluster of CEOs for Cities.

Henry S. Webber Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration, Washington University, St. Louis

Mr. Webber serves as the chief administrative officer at Washington University in St. Louis where he oversees administrative and external affairs areas with combined operating and capital budgets exceeding $400M annually and over 1,200 University and contracted employees. Mr. Webber is a Professor of Practice at the Brown School of Social Work and the Sam Fox School of Art and Architecture where he teaches courses on community development, urban design, strategic management, and social welfare policy.  Since coming to St. Louis in 2024, Mr. Webber has led major initiatives to make Washington University a stronger anchor institution in St. Louis. These efforts have included significant investments to strengthen surrounding neighborhoods, community partnerships, and sponsorship of charter schools. Mr. Webber serves as Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of CORTEX, a major urban research park and as the Chair of Invest St. Louis, a new initiative to build a comprehensive community development system in St. Louis.

Marcus White VP of Civic Engagement, Greater Milwaukee Foundation

As vice president of Civic Engagement, Marcus guides the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s community engagement efforts and helps the Foundation bring people together who don’t often see eye to eye to find common ground and achieve consensus on some of the most urgent community issues. White joined the Foundation in 2024. He previously spent seven years as executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, a nonprofit composed of 13 different religious denominations that addresses various social issues affecting the greater Milwaukee area. Under his leadership, Interfaith helped lead efforts addressing affordable housing, poverty, hunger and racial justice. Marcus began his career working with anti-apartheid organizations in South Africa beginning in the late 1980s. He graduated from Wabash College and earned a master’s degree in urban studies from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Steven E. Zumbach Equity Member, Belin McCormick, P.C.

Steve Zumbach specializes in corporate transactions focusing on mergers, acquisitions and financing for closely held companies. He practices in the area of estate planning with a primary emphasis on coordinating the estate plan with planning for the closely held business. As part of this estate planning practice, he has extensive experience advising nonprofit organizations with their charitable giving.

Steve is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a Ph.D. in Economics with an emphasis on finance. Based on his background in law, economics and accounting, he brings an interdisciplinary approach to the corporate transactional practice and estate planning practice.

Steve was an Adjunct Professor at Drake University Law School, a member of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, a tax author and advisor for the Bureau of National Affairs Tax Management and is a frequent speaker and writer on the matters related to corporate and tax law.