17 business leaders who impacted Waukee or West Des Moines in a positive way in the last year
The western suburbs thrive with commercial development and business opportunities.
It’s the people behind these businesses that have made much of this development and economic growth a
success. That is why the Western Suburbs Business Journal is recognizing these individuals with the 17 from ’17
“We created this to honor individuals who have made a difference in their business community,” says Shane
Goodman, editor and publisher of the Western Suburbs Business Journal. “There were no specific criteria upon which the nominees were chosen, but this was rather based on a collection of their accomplishments, involvement and impact in their communities.”
Readers submitted nominations, and an advisory panel narrowed down the selected to 17 individuals whom it
believed have made the biggest difference in the communities of Waukee and West Des Moines.
Here are this year’s winners:
Debbie Westphal Swander
Debbie Westphal Swander is a well-known figure in West Des Moines and Valley Junction, where she owns five
businesses: the Theatrical Shop, Dressmakers, Roses and two Betty Hill Dance locations, as well as several other properties.
Westphal Swander is vice president of the Historic Valley Junction Foundation Board and serves on the
Historic West Des Moines Master Plan Implementation Committee. The Theatrical Shop was one of 11 national
winners, determined by popular vote, for a grant to renovate the building’s façade. CITYVIEW’s Best of Des Moines named the shop as the Best Place to Buy a Costume for multiple years. Betty Hill Dance has received numerous accolades through the years that include Iowa delegate for the Young Americans National
Invitational Dance Festival and state delegate for Dance Excellence National Dance Festival.
Drake University’s College of Business Master’s Program awarded Westphal Swander with a full fellowship. She’s the creator of the NSTEP with Character program for West Des Moines Community Schools (2003-04), director and co-creator of “Hillside’s Journey with Hope” (2012), and a participant in the Leonard Bernstein Artful Learning Program in Education Leadership for the school district (2002-04).
Her parents were Betty Hill Swander and John “Jack” Swander. She has a son, John. The work of Walt Disney is an inspiration to her, as well as Ruth Blome and Albert Einstein.
Eric Kress is executive director of the Waukee Family YMCA.
He’s been an active member of his community serving as a board member for the Waukee Area Chamber of
Commerce and the Waukee Foundation. He’s volunteered as a youth basketball and softball coach and served as a Sunday school teacher at Walnut Hills Methodist Church. Kress also has volunteered at his children’s classroom parties at Waukee Elementary School. He’s been involved with Blank Children’s Hospital’s Festival of Trees and Lights and is a graduate of the Waukee Leadership Institute.
Kress and his wife, Danielle, have two daughters, Lilah, 10, and Jillian, 8. He enjoys following the Chicago Cubs, “Star Wars” and Pearl Jam. Chuck Pletke, a retired YMCA executive director, has been a mentor to Kress, as well as YMCA volunteers Todd McDonald, Terry Snyder, Frank Hoifeldt and Levi Franzen.
Gregory “Greg” J. Baker
Gregory “Greg” J. Baker can be found outdoors enjoying golf and bicycling when he’s not working as the assistant vice president of commercial lending at Peoples Trust & Savings Bank in Waukee.
Baker, a resident of Urbandale, is a member of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute Class of 2016, the Waukee Chamber, the Iowa Commercial Real Estate Association, Johnston Chamber of Commerce (and past president), and the Metro Business Forum (and past president). He’s the past president and current secretary of Rotary Club of Johnston and was president of the Greater Des Moines Affiliates Council.
Baker and his wife, Debi, have two children and five grandchildren. He enjoys the challenge and adventure of outdoor activities. He and Debi participated in the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, the biggest bicycle ride in the United States, in 2017 in New York City.
Andy Walsh has hosted more than 100 charity fundraising events in his community in the past decade. As owner operator of Mickey’s Irish Pub in Waukee, his business has raised money for Variety Club, Boy Scouts, the Waukee Historical Society, the YMCA Partner’s Program, Toys for Tots, Waukee Crimestoppers, Make a Wish, Katie’s Crusaders and more. Each Thanksgiving, with the help of kitchen manager Luis Crus, the bar-grill hosts a
complimentary Thanksgiving buffet, where free-will donations go toward local children’s charities.
Walsh received the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Neighbor Philanthropy Award. Waukee city leaders have given him a key to the city and named him Waukee Citizen of the Year. Walsh says his parents, who owned a car dealership in Carroll, taught him that a business has an obligation to give back to its community and its employees and their families. “It always made me proud when my parents were recognized for helping others,” he says.
Walsh has been influenced by his personal experience and the way he was treated by a former manager, along with a lesson he learned during a video in culinary school that preached: “Manage for people, not for profit.” That
experience has made him put his staff first in business, to be a mentor toward them and to help them succeed.
Terry Snyder of Waukee used her hobby of photography as a way to start a business (Terry Snyder Photography)
and leave the human resources profession, which she had worked in for 20 years.
Snyder has a long list of awards she has received: 2016 graduate of the Waukee Citizens Police Academy, Waukee Citizen of the Year, Des Moines Metro YMCA Volunteer of the Year, Waukee Leadership Institute President Club Award, Waukee Leadership Institute Alumni of the Year, Waukee Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassador of the Year (two times), National Association of Professional Women Woman of the Year (two times), and many others.
Snyder’s community involvement includes the Waukee Lions and Kiwanis clubs, the Waukee Chamber, the Waukee Crimestoppers Board, Waukee Relay for Life, Waukee Christian Services Gala Committee, and co-founder of the Waukee Area Historical Society.
She and husband, Rick, have been married for 44 years. They have one son, Richie, and three grandchildren: Madison, 11, Charlie, 11, and Trey, 9. She enjoys taking pictures of her family, as well as boating and water skiing on the lake. Her high school history teacher, Alice Drake, is her mentor.
Rick Messerschmidt has served on numerous committees and in elected capacities for the City of West Des Moines and West Des Moines schools through the years.
The City Council selected him to serve a three-month stint as interim mayor in 2007. He’s served on committees
for bond referendums to build police and fire stations and City Hall. He was chairman of the referendum committee to build the Valley View Aquatic Center and has served on committees to update the city’s comprehensive and parks/trails plans, to study the feasibility of a community center, and to update the city’s capital improvements program.
Messerschmidt recently completed a six-year term as treasurer for the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau. He’s also been involved with the West Des Moines Historical Society, West Des Moines Community SchoolsFoundation, the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce for 30 years, the Polk County Neighborhood Housing Trust Fund Board of Directors and West Des Moines Kiwanis. He’s active in the St. Boniface Catholic Church and its contemporary choir, playing the bass guitar.
He was an at-large city councilman from 2013-2017, West Des Moines Citizen of the Year in 2002 and received a key to the city in 2003. Messerschmidt, a retired banker, joined First Bank in 1980 and moved up to president and chief executive officer, and later chairman of the board of directors and executive vice president. He and his wife, Anita, have two children and six grandchildren. He enjoys golf and has made a hole-in-one.
Suku Radia has given more than 150 speeches in his professional career. He always tries to include a sense of
humor and a story but says it has to be relevant to the topic at hand. It’s a strength that has served him well in his
professional career and as a leader of several top companies in Iowa.
Radia, who lives in West Des Moines but was born and raised in Uganda, retired at the end of 2017 as chief
executive officer of Bankers Trust Co. He spent a decade at the helm and was past president of the company. Prior to that, he was chief financial officer of Meredith Corp. and a managing partner of KPMG’s Des Moines office. He was elected to the Nationwide board in 2014.
He’s been active in the community and has served in leadership roles for the United Way of Central Iowa, the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, Drake University, Mercy Medical Center, the Des Moines Art Center, Bravo, the Greater Des Moines Partnership and others. He’s also been involved with Rotary Clubs in Des Moines and West Des Moines, and was past president and founder of the Greater Des Moines Junior Soccer League.
The Des Moines Business Record named Radia the most influential business leader in greater Des Moines for more than five straight years. He was inducted into the Iowa Business Hall of Fame in 2010 and has received the United Way’s Tocqueville Society award and Iowa State University’s Distinguished Alumni award. He’s received dozens of other business and civic involvement accolades through the years.
Radia is married to Mary, and they have three children. He is an avid golfer and served as the tournament chair of the 2017 Solheim Cup.
Jim Miller is a long-time advocate of Historic Valley Junction Foundation, having served as its executive director
In that time, the organization has received many awards, including being a leading Main Street Iowa community
since 1987. Historic Valley Junction was named an Iowa Cultural and Entertainment District in 2006, an Iowa Great Place in 2007, a Great American Main Street award winner in 2012 and the first Main Street CoSign national community in 2017. Miller became a certified Main Street Manager in 2008, and led efforts to have the area added to the National Register of Historic Place in 2017.
Miller serves on the West Des Moines Human Services advisory board and has previously been involved with other community groups. He and wife, Elaine Watkins-Miller, have an adult son, Noah.
He had a brief Hollywood appearance in the 1992 Iowa-filmed, made-for-television movie “In the Best Interest of the Children.” Miller had lunch with Sarah Jessica Parker and Sally Struthers. Also that year, he was the fill-in makeup artist for Tom Harkin when he ran for president, as well as Joe Lieberman when they were in Iowa and appeared on CNN.
His favorite quote is from Katharine Hepburn: “If you obey all of the rules, you miss all of the fun.”
Scott Politte and his business, Stivers Ford Lincoln, have supported many civic organizations and causes through
the years: the YMCA, Waukee Community Schools Foundation, Waukee Area Christian Services, Home Instead, Be a Santa to a Senior, Animal Rescue League, Raccoon Valley Animal Shelter, Special Olympics of Iowa,
AHeintz57 animal shelter, and after-prom programs at Valley, Waukee and Van Meter high schools.
Politte is president of the auto dealership, which has been named CITYVIEW’s Best of Des Moines best domestic auto dealer for five years in a row. Ford Motor Co. awarded him with its President’s Award, and his business was Waukee Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year in 2007. He served on the chamber’s board of directors from 2007-10 and 2013-15.
He is married to Lisa. He dropped out of college to be a drummer in a heavy metal band. That didn’t happen, and Politte returned to school and earned bachelor’s degrees in English and political science.
Kathryn A. Sandie
Kathryn A. Sandie co-founded the Waukee Community Festivals nonprofit group and has supported her community in numerous ways.
The first vice president and branch manager of West Bank in Waukee graduated magna cum laude from
Grandview University and is a 2015 graduate and former executive director and board member of the Waukee
Leadership Institute and 2016 graduate of the Waukee Police Department’s Citizen’s Academy.
Sandie is a board member of Waukee Crimestoppers, a member of the Waukee Chamber, board president of her condominium association, and a member of the 2018-19 district boundary committee for Waukee Community School District. Sandie’s mother, father and brother all live in the Des Moines area. She enjoys lifting weights and running, and is training for a fitness competition in the spring. “I love setting a goal and achieving it,” she says.
Robert Reinard is vice president and consumer services manager of Bankers Trust Co.
He’s served as president and treasurer for Optimist Club and has received multiple Honor Club citations from
Optimist International, as well as the Lieutenant Governor award in Iowa when he served as lieutenant governor for central Iowa with Optimist. The FBI also awarded him with a certificate of achievement for completing its Citizen’s Academy.
Reinard also serves on the board of the Terrace Hill Commission and the West Des Moines Chamber, is co-chairman of the chamber’s Ambassador program, is a board member and treasurer for Noon Optimist Club and is board governor and treasurer of the Association of Business and Industry’s Leadership Iowa program.
He and wife, Deb, have two sons: Jordan and Mason.
Anthony Paustian is a published author, has a weekly podcast and is the provost of Des Moines Area Community College’s West Des Moines campus.
His podcast, “A Step Beyond,” is intended to inspire people to become the best version of themselves. The Des Moines Business Record included Paustian in its 40 under 40 listing. The Technology Association of Iowa named him IT Leader of the Year. One of his books received the 2017 International Book Excellence Award for Best Management Book.
Paustian has served on the West Des Moines Chamber board since 2010 and also on its executive council and as board chairman in 2015. He’s also been a member of Rotary International since 1998 and Valley Church, was on the Greater Des Moines Partnership board in 2015, and has served on numerous city planning groups and forums. He created the Wild Wild West 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament in 2006 and is still involved.
He and wife, Robin, have two adult children, Steffen and Alexandra, and three grandchildren. Paustian is a collector of U.S. space program artifacts and memorabilia from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. His favorite quote comes from Alan Bean, an Apollo 12 astronaut, who said this after having been the fourth man to walk on the moon: “I never complain about the weather now. I’m just very happy to have it, good or bad.” His greatest mentor has been his father.
Danny Beyer works as vice president of sales and marketing at Kabel Business Services in West Des Moines.
The Business Record has included Beyer in its 40 under 40 list. The Young Professionals Connection named him the YP of the Year in 2013. He’s also received the Benjamin Franklin Award for one of his books.
Beyer was the 2017 chairman of the West Des Moines Chamber and has helped raise more than $60,000 for
Variety, the Children’s Charity through the Bow Tie Ball. He’s a member of the National Advisory Council for Central College, a member of the executive advisory council for the Iowa State University Master’s in Business
Administration program, and is serving his first term on the Dallas Center City Council.
Beyer and his wife, Kacey, have two daughters, Isabella and Tabitha. He loves to run and read.
Lu Anne Gafford
Lu Anne Gafford has received multiple recognitions from various communities for her professional work and civic
Gafford, who is vice president and consumer services manager for Bankers Trust, lives in Grimes but works in Clive and is active within both of those communities as well as West Des Moines. Grimes awarded her with
Business Person of the Year in 1999 and 2005 Chamber Member of the Year. Clive awarded her with the 2009
Chamber Business of the Year and the 2016 Community Impact Finalist Award. She has served on the Clive and West Des Moines chambers, as treasurer for the Clive Community Services Board and for the Clive Community Foundation Board, as a member at New Hope Assembly of God Church in Urbandale and Iowa Walk to Emmaus, as a volunteer for Meals from the Heartland, and as co-chairwoman of the Iowa Chrysalis board.
Gafford and her husband, Bradley, have been married for 33 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Austin, and daughter, Aleigha, as well as three grandsons, Caden, Lucas and Bryson. She enjoys fishing, kayaking and crocheting, and lives by this quote from Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Lisa Remy began her career in education as a Spanish teacher in Hudson. Today, she is superintendent of West
Des Moines schools, where she has worked since 2000.
The Iowa Association of School Boards presented Remy with its Better Boardsmanship Superintendents Award of Honor, and the New Tech Network has recognized her for the work the district is doing with project-based learning. Remy is part of West Des Moines Rotary; a board member of Junior Achievement, the West Des Moines Chamber, the West Des Moines Community Schools Foundation, the Greater Des Moines Partnership Talent Development board, the Youth Justice Initiative Advisory Council; secretary and board member of the National School Foundation; a former board member of the Greater Des Moines Partnership; vice president of the Global K-12 Education Research Association; and a volunteer with United Way’s Day of Caring.
Remy has been married to her husband, Wayne, for 28 years, and they have one adult daughter, Emma. She likes to go boating, and she and her husband have a condo at Lake of the Ozarks. She also enjoys reading, particularly books by Tony Wagner. Her mom has been her mentor and has always served as a role model for her.
Erna Morain is originally from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and came to Des Moines in 1983. She and her
husband, Steve, eventually settled in Waukee.
She’s been part of the Waukee Leadership Institute, Waukee Community Foundation, and Rotary Club since
2004, and has volunteered at her daughter’s school. She has served on the Waukee Economic Development Corp. and has filled in as interim director at the Waukee Chamber in 2012, the same year she was named Ambassador of the Year.
Morain has been active with Rotary and has served as club president and on several committees within her Rotary district. She was an assistant district governor and district governor nominee (2019-20). She and Steve attended the Lisbon, Portugal Rotary International Convention and have visited Rotary clubs in several foreign countries.
The Morains have five children together. Morain stays active and likes to bicycle, run, swim, ski, garden and travel. She’s ran several road races, competed in triathlons and has ridden in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, RAGBRAI.
Kevin McCormick’s favorite quote is: “Live today as if tomorrow will never come.”
McCormick is store director of Fareway in Waukee. He’s volunteered with Walnut Creek Little League, the
Waukee Booster Club, the Waukee Foundation, Waukee Public Safety Day, Celebrate Waukee and is the 2018
chairman of the Waukee Chamber. In 2003, he won the title of Iowa State Bagging Champion.
He and his wife, Marie, have been married for 25 years. They have four children: Cole, Maddie, Bayley and Tanner. McCormick is a Minnesota Vikings fan. ♦