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Civic Skinny

Palmer postpones retirement. Campaign dollars climb. VA clinic opens.


The Prairie Meadows Board of Directors recently voted to extend the contract of CEO Gary Palmer, who had formerly planned to retire at the end of 2023.

“I had a group of Prairie Meadows board members ask if I’d stay a little bit longer, and I told them I’d think about it,” Palmer told CITYVIEW. “And I got back with them and told them I’d stay a few more years.”

The decision came during an unexpected board meeting on Aug. 12. When the meeting was called to order, the board immediately went into closed session for about one hour. Palmer and the recording secretary exited the meeting room as well. When the public meeting resumed, a motion to extend Palmer’s contract to Dec. 31, 2026, was passed unanimously. An ongoing search for an executive vice president, who presumably would have become CEO after Palmer’s retirement, was postponed in a motion passed 8 to 4 — a previous motion to terminate the search failed 6 to 6. Palmer said that an individual had not yet been identified in that search.

Palmer is paid an annual base salary of $641,000 and received an $800,000 bonus earlier this year. He said all terms of his contract will remain “exactly the same.”

“It’s pretty simple,” he said. “I guess instead of going fishing, I’m going to go work for a couple more years.”

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Palmer became a full-time staff member with Prairie Meadows in 1998 and was named CEO in 2006. …

As Election Day creeps closer, campaign contributions creep up. Once again, we’ve perused the most recent receipts reported by the Federal Election Commission to bring you big contributions of interest.

So far, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne has spent $1.7 million on her reelection campaign, with $3 million left on hand, as of the latest reporting period. Those numbers have grown thanks to donations including $2,900 from Stuart Feldstein, executive vice president of Albaugh, LLC, who gave the same amount to Mike Franken; $2,000 from West Des Moines real estate broker Jen Stanbrough; and $3,000 from past president of Simpson College, Stephen Jennings.

Axne’s Republican challenger, Zach Nunn, has spent a total of $841,233 on his campaign, with $301,803 cash on hand. Recent contributions have included $5,000 from local restaurateur Mike Limani; $2,900 from Gerald Kirke, owner of Kirke Financial; and $5,600 from Denny and Candy Elwell of commercial real estate acclaim.

In his bid against incumbent U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, Admiral Mike Franken has amassed approximately $4.6 million in contributions. Within the last few months, receipts of note have included $2,800 from Fred Hubbell; $2,900 from Des Moines lawyer James A. Benozi; $1,000 from Frances Rockey, a professor at Drake University; and $1,000 from Bruce Hughes, a neurologist with MercyOne in Des Moines. Richard C. Eychaner donated $2,900 each to Franken and Axne — Eychaner Properties manages several around the metro, including the 300mlk building downtown.

During the most recent fundraising period that concluded June 30, Franken had raised $1.75 million compared to Grassley’s $609,000. While the majority of Franken’s funds are provided from small individual donations, the last election filing cycle revealed that nearly 40% of Grassley’s funds raised came from PACs and political forums. These have included: $1,000 from real estate company Zillow; $5,000 from Hy-Vee; $2,500 from Stanley Black & Decker; $2,500 from UPS; $1,000 from Best Buy; $5,000 from Koch Industries; $5,000 from Land O’Lakes, in addition to $5,000 given in the primary election; $5,000 from General Motors; $2,500 from Target, totaling $8,500 to Grassley’s entire reelection campaign; and $1,000 from Walmart.

Still, that’s not to say Grassley hasn’t received support from individuals. BJ Baker, CEO of Baker Group, donated $2,900, on top of his $2,900 contribution for the primary. Thomas Moreland gave $1,500 — he’s the president of healthcare employment agency Camillus Staffing, also known as Nextaff of Des Moines. Another $1,000 came from Terry Lillis, former executive vice president and chief financial officer of Principal, and another from John Briggs, retired CFO of Hy-Vee.

Let’s not forget about state elections. Donald Lamberti, founder of Casey’s, contributed $10,000 toward House Speaker Pat Grassley’s reelection bid. Wayne Reames, an attorney with Belin McCormick in Des Moines, donated $2,550 to Attorney General Tom Miller’s campaign. Harry Bookey, founder of BH Management, gave $2,500 each to Iowa House hopefuls Molly Buck and Heather Matson. And finally, Joe Riley, chief operations officer and president of agriculture company Rantizo, contributed $2,000 toward Rob Sand’s run for State Auditor.

In the gubernatorial race, incumbent Kim Reynolds reported a total of $633,024 in cash contributions during the latest reporting period, totaling $5.24 million cash on hand. Large contributions included $25,000 from Mike Bennett, CEO of Terra Industries, and $25,000 from Doug McAninch, CEO of McAninch Corporation. Reynolds’ challenger, Democrat Deidre DeJear, reported $255,746 in cash contributions during the latest reporting period, with cash on hand totaling $503,314. DeJear’s largest contributions were three $5,000 checks — one from Kum & Go CEO Tanner Krause, one from Deval Patrick, former Massachusetts governor, and one from Jennifer DiBrienza of Palo Alto, California. … 

CITYVIEW mourns the loss of Dorothy Harrison, who passed away Aug. 1, just a month shy of her 100th birthday. According to her obituary, she was planning a big party for that special day, and she was a little put out when she realized on her deathbed at Boone County Hospital that she couldn’t quite make it. But a touch of pneumonia and a few other maladies didn’t blight her outlook. She was cracking wise and smiling with her daughter, Jill, and son, Ross, as she rested comfortably knowing her birthday would still be celebrated. 

Dorothy worked for the editorial department of The Des Moines Register for 17 years, an occupation that helped her figure out what was wrong with the world — and what was right about it. There were Pulitzer Prize winning editorial writers in the department back then. She absorbed their views of politics and local and world events. She provided organizational support and goodwill to those writers so they could excel in their craft, and they loved her for it. In her later years, Dorothy was quite content, seated in her primary chair before her large windows, deep into a mystery novel or a news magazine. If it rained, that was fine by her. Snow, even better. Life was good to her, and she enjoyed it immensely. …

Following two years of construction, including several months of delays, the VA of Central Iowa opened its new Primary Care Clinic in south Des Moines. The clinic is located at 1211 E. Army Post Road, occupying a 42,000 square-foot building that was formerly a Toys “R” Us in the Southridge Mall complex. 

The move vacated 19,000 square feet of space for upgrades and alternative services at the current VA Medical Center in Beaverdale, which will continue to provide specialty care. Patients gradually transitioned to their primary care providers in the new location during the months of July and August.

“Some of our veterans have been getting primary care in Beaverdale for 30 or 40 years, or more,” said Bobbi Karr, director of the South Des Moines Clinic. “We were very concerned that moving to the new location would cause some veterans some confusion. But we put a plan together to make sure our veterans knew when and where they should get their primary care. We’ve been ecstatic with the results.” ♦

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