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Business Feature

19 From 2019


Honoring individuals who made a difference in the business community in the past year.

Good things happen each and every day in central Iowa’s communities, but these things don’t magically happen.

They happen because of hardworking individuals who care about their community and are willing to put forth the extra effort to make them happen. CITYVIEW’s Business Journal recognizes 19 of these business leaders for their efforts and accomplishments with the “19 from 2019: People who made a difference” designation.

“We held a similar promotion and event in years past with our community business journals, and it was a big hit and a fun way to recognize people,” says CITYVIEW editor and publisher Shane Goodman. “So we thought we would continue this tradition with the CITYVIEW Business Journal and share the positive things these folks have done with our 85,000 readers.”

Readers submitted nominations, and an advisory panel narrowed down the selected to 19 individuals whom it believed had made the biggest difference in Des Moines and its surrounding communities.

Here are this year’s honorees:

CNA - ImmunizationsCNA - Stop HIV Iowa

Denise Bickford is a retired business professional and recent transplant to Grimes, but she immediately became a top cheerleader for the community. She was heavily involved in getting the recent local option sales tax passed with 81 percent of the vote in Grimes. She’s on the board of the Kiwanis Club, is a Chamber of Commerce ambassador, is president of the Grimes Public Library Friends Foundation, volunteers for Grimes Volunteer Support Services as a scheduler and driver, and participates in numerous events and activities within the community.





Pennie Carroll of Runnells is the owner of Pennie Carroll & Associates, a family-owned real estate company that helps Greater Des Moines area residents buy and sell homes. She’s involved with organizations that help develop spiritual growth, assist children and promote local business leaders and women in the area. These include her church, Kiwanis International, Rotary Des Moines, the Greater Des Moines Partnership and local chambers of commerce, NABOW, the Lincoln Savings Bank advisory board, Grand View Christian School Foundation and BNI Iowa, a business networking group. Carroll has been listed as a Top 10 Realtor from the Des Moines Area Association of Realtors from 2009 through 2019. She’s been recognized as a Citizen of the Year and says she strives to give back to her community through both her business and service on boards and commissions.




Luis Cruz started his career in the hospitality industry as an 18-year-old who took a job as a dishwasher in order to learn English. Through the years, others recognized his hard work and promoted him to various positions within the restaurant business. He is now the general manager of Mickey’s Irish Pub in Waukee. During his 10 years with the business, he and the owners have implemented more than 100 charity fundraising events. Cruz himself started a fundraiser in which, each Thanksgiving, a charity such as Toys for Tots, Amanda the Panda or Mentor Iowa that supports local children is selected. The Pub hosts a free Thanksgiving buffet and accepts donations that are given to that year’s charity. Any leftover food from the buffet is donated to the Waukee Food Pantry. Cruz says this helps those in need, those who are hungry, and Iowa’s children. With Cruz’s involvement, Mickey’s won The Restaurant Neighbor Philanthropy Award for its charity work. Cruz’s focus outside of work is on his education and raising his daughter, Kim, whom he is trying to teach to help others as well.


Bruce W. Gerleman of Des Moines has historically renovated several Des Moines landmarks including The Homestead Building, The Hawkeye Insurance Building, The Saddlery Building, The Rock Island Depot and dozens of other significant historic buildings throughout the country. He’s worked to preserve the historic architecture of the state and, alongside the Iowa Restaurant Association, to limit regulations that impose upon independent restaurants. Gerleman also can be credited with the renovation that brought the fiber optics network for 150 independent phone companies into a centralized hub known as The International Trade Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines. As the founder of Jethro’s BBQ and Splash Seafood Bar & Grill, Gerleman Management Inc. employs almost 800 Iowans. Gerleman also has been involved with Amanda the Panda and YMCA Fathers and Families. He was recognized as the Young Iowan of the Year, the Central Iowa Metropolitan League Tennis Coach of the Year and the Iowa Restaurateur of the Year, among other honors.

E.J. Giovannetti had every intention of returning to his family’s farming business in California after earning his law degree from Creighton University, but he married a Des Moines native and settled in central Iowa. His skillset as a lawyer — he’s an attorney and shareholder of Hopkins & Huebner, P.C., in Des Moines — allowed him to work with, and in, local government for many years. Giovannetti was briefly an assistant attorney general for the state of Iowa and later served as a longtime local elected leader, both as mayor of Urbandale and as a Polk County supervisor. He has worked to enhance the quality of life for the greater Des Moines area and has served on numerous boards and commissions that include the former Greater Des Moines Civic Center, the Des Moines Arts Festival, as former president of the Iowa League of Cities and as a current government representative on the Iowa Public Information Board. He’s served as a mentor and adviser to youth and tries to create a forward-looking dialogue to shape central Iowa’s future.

Jean Jones is a self-proclaimed “ambassador for Des Moines.” She is president of Lil Brother Construction, which was started in 2008 to help others with handyman construction projects and to give them peace of mind in trusting someone to have work done in their home. Jones is active in the Iowa chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and a member of the Des Moines West Side Chamber and has served on its board and as a past president. Her company founded the Bryce Millikan Charity Foundation in honor of Millikan, an employee who died from cancer in August. The foundation helps individuals or those with family members who are battling cancer or another serious illness with the labor and material costs of needed home repairs.




Jason Kerndt is the 2018 Grimes Citizen of the Year. He’s a commercial banker and the senior vice president of Vision Bank, where he works with small- to mid-size business owners and provides them with financing for their operations, equipment and commercial real estate. He enjoys working with business owners and wanted to be in a profession where he could help them succeed. Kerndt has served as a board member of the Dallas-Center Grimes Education Foundation since 2018, on the West Polk County Rotary since 2014 with 2018 as the club president, and on the Johnston Economic Development Corp. since 2013. Through his service and his profession, Kerndt tries to help where he sees a need and make it easier for others to make a difference.




Dan Knoup chose to become a carpenter rather than finish his college degree after his service in the U.S. Navy, where he was one of 16 chosen for presidential support duty at Camp David. He worked his way up from carrying lumber to running a crew and was eventually offered a job as a superintendent from a homebuilder. He built and remodeled about 700 homes from 1996-2014. He was elected president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines in 2011 and was hired as its executive director in 2014. Since he took over, the association has started a nonprofit organization to help high school students learn about careers in the building trades. Almost $2 million has been raised to train high school students from 29 schools. The association also started Build My Future, a hands-on event where 2,074 high school students learn how to operate cranes, weld steel, lay brick, build a shed and wire a switch. Knoup is active in his home community of Urbandale, coaches his daughters in T-ball and volleyball, and is involved in many professional organizations.


Michael Libbie has helped hundreds of nonprofit and for-profit corporations better market their products and services for free through his business, Insight Advertising, Marketing and Communications. He’s the founder and host of Insight on Business the News Hour. Libbie has been the executive director of the Windsor Heights Chamber of Commerce, has spoken internationally about topics such as effective communication and marketing, and he’s running for the Iowa State Senate. He’s been a spiritual leader of the Jewish Congregation of Mason City — Adas Israel — for the past 30 years. The Iowa Broadcast News Association has honored Libbie several times with “Best of” awards.





Marty Martin is a fourth-generation lawyer who now serves as the president of Drake University. He served on active duty with the U.S. Air Force as a Judge Advocate general officer and later in the USAF Reserves, where he retired as a lieutenant colonel. He taught at several university law schools and worked as a dean and executive vice president before coming to Drake in 2015 because he wanted to further the mission of education. Martin is co-chairman of the Transit Future Work Group, which has been tasked with creating a plan for the metro area’s future public transportation needs. He’s on the executive committee of Catch Des Moines and is a board member of Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, where he helps support the mission to reinvest profits back into the community.




Jim Miller has been with Morgan Stanley over 36 years and have been a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional since 1987. Just after college, at ISU, three different investment people I was working with told me I should get into the business. They were right!

Over the years, I have been on several Boards including Homes of Oakridge and LINK
Associates. Currently I am on the Dallas County Conservation Board and am currently President of the Waukee Betterment Foundation. I am also running for the West Des Moines Parks & Recreation Advisory Board which is an elected position.

I was honored a few years ago, along with Randy Jensen, to receive the Waukee Key to the City in recognition of our efforts to build the pergola at the Raccoon River Valley Trailhead in Waukee known as “In The Shadow of the Rails”. Although not an honor, I am very proud to have ridden my bike across the continent in 2015, in 27 days. My greatest point of pride is my first grandchild, Ellie, who lives in Omaha.

My parents were firm believers in giving back to the community. They grew up during the Great Depression and knew suffering. That experience taught them the impact one person can have to create a better world and a desire to help. In my work as a financial advisor, I have seen that dreaming big and having lofty goals can pay off. I hope to steer organizations to thinking big and not just settling for easy.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and
federally registered CFP (with flame design) in the U.S, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s
initial and ongoing certification requirements.
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC. Member SIPC.
CRC#2764134 10/2019


Jackie Norris is the president and chief executive officer of Goodwill of Central Iowa. She has worn many hats in her career: White House assistant to President Barack Obama, Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, teacher, university lecturer, political aide to Tom Vilsack and Vice President Al Gore, volunteer champion and more. In her role with Goodwill, Norris is focused on eliminating employment barriers for Central Iowans and helping to provide workforce training through Goodwill’s programs. She challenges business owners to consider how their workplace is welcoming and whether it hires individuals with disabilities, refugees, immigrants and formerly incarcerated individuals. Outside of work, Norris cheers on her three teenage sons and volunteers with their activities at Roosevelt High School and Merrill Middle School, and is active at her church and in her sons’ Boy Scout activities.




Christine Osborne joined the jewelry industry after she was recruited by a company that she assisted with opening a new checking account. Years later, her career path led her to Christopher’s Fine Jewelry and Rare Coins, where she became the general manager in 2013. Christopher’s supports organizations in the community that mirror its values of integrity, respect and education. This includes Dress for Success, an organization which Osborne serves as the board president. She’s also championed Christopher’s support of AHeinz57 Pet Rescue and Transport, which saves homeless animals and provides them services until they are adopted.


Tricia Rivas believes in supporting the community that supports her business. She comes from a long line of hairdressers and has been a hair and makeup artist since 1997. She owns Trixie’s Salons in Des Moines, which was named one of the top 200 salons in the country. Rivas is passionate about her employees and what they do to make their customers feel welcome and appreciated from the moment they walk in the door to follow-up phone calls and handwritten notes. Rivas is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners, FemCity, FuseDSM and the West Side Des Moines Chamber of Commerce. She’s been named a Citizen of the Year and received the STAMP award for her salon’s mission and marketing.





Scott Seeliger is senior manager for Cognizant’s Global Corporate Affairs Team, where he has a broad range of responsibilities, both locally and statewide to lead initiatives that help create jobs, build business expansion and coordinate pre-employment training programs to close skills’ gaps in cities across the United States. Seeliger is chairman of the Downtown Des Moines Chamber of Commerce Board and is a member of the Greater Des Moines Partnership Regional Chamber Board, the Des Moines Embassy Club Board, the United Way Business Volunteer Council, Northern Polk Pheasants Forever Board, his church board and the American Heart Association Heart Walk Executive Leadership Team. He helped secure a CPR kiosk machine for Jordan Creek Town Center that will allow visitors to learn CPR through the kiosk. Seeliger is a graduate of both the Iowa Association of Business and Industry and the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute’s leadership programs. He and his wife live in Altoona with their twin daughters.


Mary Simon combined her love of customer service and numbers to create a career in the banking industry. She’s the vice president and consumer services manager of the Altoona branch for Bankers Trust, where she helps customers with their financial needs and enjoys building relationships as she helps them with their financial planning. Simon serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee for Prairie Meadows Race Track and Casino because she supports the grants from casino proceeds that are given to organizations in the community. She’s a member and past president of the Altoona Chamber of Commerce; a founding member of Altoona Palooza, which she helped organize to give residents an annual community event; and she’s served on other boards for the City of Altoona. The Altoona Chamber has recognized her work as an ambassador, and she’s received other awards but says her greatest honor is being a wife to her husband, Pat, and a mother to her children, Alex and Harrison.



Michele Starkenburg of Ankeny has been fascinated with coins since she was a child, which led her to work at a financial institution while in college. She’s worked as a teller and in each avenue of finance before becoming a manager at Veridian Credit Union. Starkenburg served as a mentor while receiving her master’s degree in organizational leadership, which was one of her most rewarding professional experiences, and she is a member of the Ankeny Chamber of Commerce’s Board and is now its chairwoman. She leads and manages with a philosophy of “carpe diem — seize the day.” She takes advantage of opportunities that allow her to get out of her comfort zone for personal and professional growth, including a two-year assignment where she researched new ideas for implementation at Veridian.





Randy Tennison has led the overall development, leasing, operations and marketing of Jordan Creek Town Center for 14 of its 15-year existence as the center’s senior general manager. The International Council of Shopping Centers has recognized him as a certified retail property executive and certified shopping center manager. Tennison has served on the board for Children and Families of Iowa and supports the organization with events at the town center. He’s on the executive board of directors for the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce and is on the West Des Moines Leadership Advisory Board. Tennison and his wife, Terri, have been married for 27 years and have four children. Tennison says he strives to make central Iowa a place where people of all ages can live or relocate to, that is safe, affordable and has educational and career opportunities.




BobbiJo Wolfe wanted a way to introduce new families in the Des Moines area to local businesses and to encourage them to shop local. She started Community Greetings in 1999. Wolfe, who lives in Grimes, is active in her local community. She’s part of Grimes Chamber and Economic Development and the Urbandale Chamber of Commerce. Her company also is active with other chambers throughout the metro, where greeters are located, because she believes in supporting the chamber and developing relationships with other community business owners. Wolfe was the Grimes Chamber’s 2004 and 2014 Ambassador of the Year. She recently created “Grimes Golden Greetings Group” for 50-plus age residents as a way for them to join in fellowship. Each year during the holiday season, Wolfe rallies her friends to select a Grimes family whom the group secretly provides gifts to in order to brighten their holiday. ♦

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