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Feature Story

2019 Des Moines’ most likeable people

12/4/2019

A social networking contest and charity event

During Roman gladiator fights, getting the thumbs down was a signal to the victorious fighter to put his sword down and spare the life of the loser. The thumbs up, on the other hand, meant death for the conquered party. But CITYVIEW’s Des Moines’ Most Likeable People contest is not anything like that.

Central Iowa boasts more than a half million people. Collectively we are known for being “Iowa Nice,” so when CITYVIEW asked readers to determine the area’s most likeable man and woman for the fourth straight year, the nominations poured in. The original list included politicians, public figures, celebrities and plenty of ordinary people, too. During the ensuing weeks, thousands of central Iowa citizens rated 16 people — eight men and eight women — as the area’s most likeable for 2019.

To celebrate, Des Moines’ Most Likeable People Party is scheduled for 6-10 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 13 at Decades Event Center in West Des Moines. The 16 finalists listed on the following pages have each selected a charitable organization to support with their likeability. The male and female candidates receiving the most thumbs up votes by people at the event will be named Des Moines’ Most Likeable and a check for $750 will be made out to the nonprofit of each winner’s choice.

Win or lose, CITYVIEW is giving each of the following 16 contestants, listed here in no particular order, a big thumbs up — the good kind — for being likeable and for working to help special causes.

Echo Boland

HIV

1. Occupation? A 23-year veteran and baker/creator at Echo’s Cookies Shop.
2. City where you live? Waukee.
3. Hometown? Canal Fulton, Ohio.
4. How would your best friend describe you? Loyal and generous.
5. Words to live by? Dream it. Believe it. Achieve it!
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Being with my family when they are here.
7. Favorite dessert? Cinnamon rolls/monster bars at Echo’s Cookie Shop.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? I can’t sit long enough to watch a movie.
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? Hard one? I don’t have an answer.
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Unravel is a 501(c)3 organization formed to unravel pediatric cancer by funding innovative research. I chose Unravel because we lost little Elayna Sandeen a little over a year ago. She was a HUGE part of the love at my Cookie Shop. Her mom has started the Unravel chapter here in Iowa, and I want to support her as much as I possibly can. We are losing too many of our littles to cancer.

Mrs. Rachel Weitzel

1. Occupation? Pre-K teacher at Victory Christian Academy in Indianola.
2. City where you live? Indianola.
3. Hometown? Corydon.
4. How would your best friend describe you? Loyal, funny, stubborn, faithful, hardworking, humble, helpful and passionate.
5. Words to live by? “For those who love God…All things work together for good…” Romans 8:28
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Watching my kids play sports, Pinterest projects, baking and camping.
7. Favorite dessert? White cake with chocolate frosting.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? Miss Clara in “War Room.” I love her faith commitment.
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? The amount of developed land between Des Moines and Indianola will be more!
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? My worthy cause is Victory Christian Academy. I am choosing it because it is my ministry and educating children is my passion.

Lisa Ryan

1. Occupation? Director of communications for WesleyLife.
2. City where you live? Urbandale.
3. Hometown? Des Moines.
4. How would your best friend describe you? Deeply committed to the people I care about and the causes that are important to me. Someone who tries to put others’ needs first. Enthusiastic grandma. Spoiler of dogs. Writer. Storyteller. Big fan of caffeine.
5. Words to live by? 1. “The great secret that all older people share is that you really don’t change in 70 or 80 years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all.” — Doris Lessing. … 2. “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters
very much.” — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Being a grandma. Walking. Reading. Writing. Playing on Spotify.
7. Favorite dessert? Banana-split dessert (a family recipe).
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? Just one? There are many. The character of Jo March in “Little Women,” no matter who plays her. Albert Brooks in “Broadcast News.” Taraji P. Henson in “Hidden Figures.” And, as someone whose career is in senior living, Julianne Moore in “Still Alice” and Judi Dench in “Iris” would have to be in there, too.
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? I’ll be 87 then, so I hope to be around to see if I’m right! Des Moines will be bigger, certainly. I don’t envision any major differences — except that it will become even more of a destination city for business, travel, raising families — everything it is now, only more so. We live in the best community in the world.
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? WesleyLife Meals on Wheels. So many people are unaware that, right here in the metro, older adults go hungry every day — either because they’re not aware of the resources available to them, or because they are too proud to ask for help. Meals on Wheels serves hundreds of hot, healthy meals each day to older adults and to veterans of all ages in central Iowa, and even more importantly, our compassionate drivers greet our clients each day with a kind word and a quick conversation just to make sure the individuals are well. We provide the meals on a sliding-fee scale, and the need is constantly growing — so presenting a check for $750 to this organization would be an honor for me, as that amount would feed literally hundreds of our most vulnerable central Iowans.

Maria Davis

1. Occupation? Commercial real estate manager, R&R Realty Group.
2. City where you live? West Des Moines.
3. Hometown? Des Moines southside.
4. How would your best friend describe you? In the words of my sister and bff: Fun and funny! Smart. A people person. Likeable (haha!). Caring, compassionate, loving. Business savvy.
5. Words to live by? “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Running and biking.
7. Favorite dessert? Candy. Does candy count?
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? Pee-Wee Herman in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.” He’s a total goofball who truly believes he’s a serious person.
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? We will be an international destination for Water Trail activities and sports on our rivers. Can’t wait!
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Iowa. To find
a cure for blood cancers. Every 3 minutes, someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Blood cancers account for 10 percent of all new cancer cases in 2019.

Jessica Dunker

1. Occupation? President and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association.
2. City where you live? Urbandale.
3. Hometown? Mason City.
4. How would your best friend describe you? Optimistic, vivacious, practical, passionate and action-oriented.
5. Words to live by? There are two sides to every story, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Hanging out with my five children including two sets of twins!
7. Favorite dessert? Anything chocolate.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? Samwise Ganji from “Lord of the Rings.” He’s who everyone should aspire to be.
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? The office buildings will be converted to housing and places to play because technology will make it possible for almost everyone to work remotely from anywhere in the world.
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Zion Lutheran Church’s Operation Christmas Store and Operation Bethlehem. This Christmas season they will be collecting soccer balls, skateboards, power banks, headphones, makeup sets, Lego sets and other toys to share with Des Moines area refugee friends! More than 250-plus local refugee kids will get the chance to “shop” and select 1-2 Christmas presents for themselves or someone else in the Christmas store. Most would likely otherwise not have any Christmas presents and this lets them choose things — something very rare in their lives. Each child also gets a new sweatshirt.

Mary Anne Kennedy

1. Occupation? My company is Primary Source, and we provide promotional products (you know…swag!) to business and organizations so they can promote their products and services.
2. City where you live? Clive.
3. Hometown? Born in Alabama, lived all over the country, settled in Westport, Indiana.
4. How would your best friend describe you? I asked a couple of them: Mary Anne radiates positivity and happiness! She is genuine, loyal, honest and caring. And her smile is contagious!
5. Words to live by? Do something good for someone every day!
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Golfing, fishing, tasting wine, movies and scrapbooking.
7. Favorite dessert? Red Velvet Cake.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games.”
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? Des Moines won’t be that “best kept secret” by then.
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Dress for Success. They’re all about empowering women to achieve economic independence in spite of struggles they have been through. They provide resume and interview training, interview and work attire and support services to assist women to a transition of successful employment. I see it as more than helping each woman — it helps her children, her family, her employer and co-workers, and the end result helps our entire community.

Brooke Pulliam

1. Occupation? Director of Planned Giving for the Catholic Foundation of Southwest Iowa.
2. City where you live? Des Moines.
3. Hometown? Des Moines.
4. How would your best friend describe you? Hard working, good listener, outgoing and friendly.
5. Words to live by? It’s called work for a reason. Do the work.
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Reading, being outside with my family.
7. Favorite dessert? Cherry pie and vanilla ice cream.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? Belle from “Beauty and The Beast.” She loved her family, doing the right thing, and she found adventures in her reading.
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? Less people will drive their own cars, so parking will no longer be an issue of where to spend time.
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Project HOPE (Help our Parents Educate). Almost four decades ago, a local parishioner began this program with the vision of providing a Catholic Education to students in need. More than 8,500 students have received tuition assistance from Project HOPE since 1981, sustaining this vision. Our Catholic schools provide a learning experience that prepares young people both spiritually and academically. Project HOPE services 17 Catholic schools within the Diocese of Des Moines and provides an opportunity for those that desire a Catholic education for their children.

Trish Flaherty-Barnes

1. Occupation? President/CEO of FuseDSM, Your Chamber of Commerce.
2. City where you live? Des Moines, southside.
3. Hometown? Mundelein, Illinois, is where I grew up, Born in Los Angeles, California.
4. How would your best friend describe you? A genuine friend, loyal beyond compare, compassionate, generous and unconditional.
5. Words to live by? I have two: (1) Be kind. Always. (2) There is an upside to everything; find it.
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Making memories — traveling with friends and family. Hawkeye football.
7. Favorite dessert? Wine. I could give or take dessert.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? Clarice Starling in “Silence of the Lambs.” She’s flawed, damaged, vulnerable yet tough as nails and doesn’t give up. She’s real.
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? It still won’t have mountains or an ocean. The snow won’t stop coming in the winter. Yet, I imagine population growth by then will double in the next 30 years as it has the past 30 years. Go DSMUSA!
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Iowa Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.). We are a law enforcement family, my husband is a LEO. I’ve lost two friends, officers, killed in the line of duty. This organization is a lifeline to affected families and coworkers.

Dustin Klein

1. Occupation? Automotive service manager at Shade Tree Auto in Grimes.
2. City where you live? Waukee.
3. Hometown? Blue Springs, Missouri (for a short few months). Then good ol’ DSM. Des Moines is home.
4. How would your best friend describe you? Reliable, honest, outgoing and HILARIOUS.
5. Words to live by? Happiness is a decision. Not a result. Choose to be happy, and you will be.
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? I love exploring new restaurants/bars with my wife, Katelyn. We frequently do “Food Crawls” for date night, trying somewhere new for each course of our night. And I’m a sports fanatic. If there’s something on to watch and cheer for, I’m in.
7. Favorite dessert? Cheesecake. Which kind……? Yes.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? 1. Ray Kinsella in “Field of Dreams.” 2. Tony Stark in “Iron Man.” 3. Optimus Prime in “Transformers.”
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? There will be a 61-year old Dustin Klein living in it, and there better be a Target in Waukee.
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Dress for Success Des Moines. This program helps and empowers women to succeed in the workplace. They provide professional clothing to women in need for interviews and developmental tools and coaching to help women connect with the workplace, maintain their new career, and advance in their field. It’s truly an inspiring program, and the people that run it are wholehearted and dedicated to their mission.

Tim Pettit

1. Occupation? Chauffeur and co-owner of Chauffeurs of Distinction.
2. City where you live? Adel.
3. Hometown? Windsor Heights.
4. How would your best friend describe you? Loyal, genuinely kind, thinks of others before himself.
5. Words to live by? “Living the dream.”
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Socializing.
7. Favorite dessert? Apple cinnamon crisp.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? Shrek, because he’s rough on the outside and kind on the inside.
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? Des Moines will become recognized internationally as a must stop and visit on your bucket list!
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Wildwood Hills Ranch for providing healing, hope and God’s unconditional love for students and veterans.

Paul Huntley

1. Occupation? CEO MSG Payment Systems.
2. City where you live? Urbandale.
3. Hometown? Clear Lake.
4. How would your best friend describe you? Dry humor.
5. Words to live by? Let the day take you where it’s going to go.
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Wake surfing and boating.
7. Favorite dessert? Chocolate chip cookies.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? James Bond.
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? I won’t live there.
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Susan G Komen Greater Iowa to support breast cancer awareness and research.

Jeff Young

1. Occupation? Dream weaver.
2. City where you live? Of the monks.
3. Hometown? From the monks.
4. How would your best friend describe you? He is an amazing lover.
5. Words to live by? Do something, even if it’s wrong.
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Work.
7. Favorite dessert? Des Moines IPA.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? Forrest Gump.
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? I will be looking up at all of you or down at all of you, hopefully I play my cards right!
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Food Bank of Iowa. Food isn’t a possession, it’s a basic need. We can all do without our possessions, but we all need food to thrive!

Sid Juwarker

1. Occupation? Environmental consultant, comedian, comedy club owner.
2. City where you live? Des Moines.
3. Hometown? Des Moines (22 years) via Mumbai, India, and Singapore.
4. How would your best friend describe you? Genuine in wanting to help people and community. Love to make people smile.
5. Words to live by? “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” — misattributed to Dr. Suess
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Performing in and attending local comedy shows.
7. Favorite dessert? Jameson Irish Whiskey
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? The Dude, “Big Lebowski.”
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? Des Moines will be the independent comedy mecca of the U.S.
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? CultureALL. As an immigrant and artist in Iowa, I appreciate and support an organization that brings people from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds into classrooms, businesses and the community to deliver interactive, authentic learning experiences that help bring people together, build understanding and appreciation of world cultures, and promote equity and inclusion.

Jeff Reed

1. Occupation? Business strategist and consultant.
2. City where you live? Ankeny.
3. Hometown? Ankeny.
4. How would your best friend describe you? Motivated, trustworthy, positive with a servant’s heart.
5. Words to live by? “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Gandhi
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Spending time as a family, volunteering, photography and woodworking.
7. Favorite dessert? Peanut butter cookies.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? Will Smith from the “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? The population will double, and we will have four new skyscrapers.
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Holiday Streakers in Ankeny is a nonprofit that exercises to raise money for others facing medical hardship.

Sean Sweeney

1. Occupation? Owner of Sweeney Reporting.
2. City where you live? Des Moines.
3. Hometown? Osage, #Always a Green Devil.
4. How would your best friend describe you? Kinda nice, kinda funny, kinda loud.
5. Words to live by? Always go against the grain as long as you are sure everyone is in agreement.
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? All aspects of motorcycle culture.
7. Favorite dessert? Anything my mom makes me.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? Arthur Fonzarelli.
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? Your property taxes will be much higher.
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Books & Bricks for Belize. Thousands of impoverished children in Belize share a dream: They want to go to school. But without help, many will never see the inside of a classroom.

Shawn Allan

1. Occupation? Sales, Boston Beer Company.
2. City where you live? Urbandale.
3. Hometown? Sioux City.
4. How would your best friend describe you? Dependable and loyal.
5. Words to live by? The Devil whispered, “You can’t withstand the storm,” The Warrior replied, “I am the storm!”
6. Activities you enjoy when you aren’t working? Sports of all kinds and time with my family.
7. Favorite dessert? Apple pie.
8. If movie characters were real people, which one would you say is your hero? Harry Stamper from “Armageddon.”
9. What will be true about Des Moines in the year 2050 that is not true today? Unfortunately, it won’t be the best kept secret in the U.S.
10. What worthy cause are you supporting with your likeability, and why did you choose it? Animal Rescue League of Iowa. My dog Irish is part of our family, and the work this organization does to unite animals to families and help this community is amazing. ♦

One Comment

  1. Sharon Rooney Mueksch
    December 11, 2019 9:16 am

    I vote for Sean Sweeney!

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