Authored by Katherine Harrington, President & CEO | WDM Chamber of Commerce
This was the first time I have been on the iconic DC trip with the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Like me, there were many newcomers this year. For those of you who might have questioned the value of attending, I knew within the first five minutes why this trip was going to be epic. It seemed as if the entire Greater Des Moines Region was heading to DC. You could also tell this was going to be a great trip by the Whova ap “Leaderboard”. Competition was fierce for first place. While I am still in the top 10 (as I write this note, however, others are gaining on me), kudos goes to Rob Grove, Marketa Oliver, and Nick Callison in 1st, 2nd, & 3rd place. Honorable mention goes to Sid Juwarker, Dr. Rachelle Keck, and Susan Judkins, in the next place rankings.
As my hubby Craig Walter dropped dynamo Rachel Wacker and I off at the airport at 5:00am, scrambling for coffee, we were whisked away via charter jet to DC. Everyone was abuzz about the trip ahead. I had the pleasure of sharing the row with Angie Stepsis and Jaclyn Taylor. You could tell we were excited. The two-hour plain ride felt like it took about two minutes.
The trip was filled with nonstop excitement, walking to and from some of the most spectacular sites in America, plus planes, trains, and automobiles. Believe it or not, I think these rides were the most important part of the trip. It was there that I had some of the most interesting conversations with regional leaders. From Bob Riley (who we call my ‘dad’), to Rowena Crosbie, Erin Hockman, Jacklyn Taylor, Dustyn Curran, Lori Chesser (we will finish that convo Lori!), Doug Beech, Kari Boyens, Bo James, Scott Raecker, Laura Skogman, Ryan Smith, Mayor Cownie, Susan Judkins, Dr. Adreain Henry, Dr. Rachelle Keck, Sid Jarwarker, Jason Parkin, Aaron Wendall, John Irving and the list goes on and on. We talked about what makes this community great and what we can work on. We shared stories and ideas. We laughed and told jokes. We talked about our families. Where else do you get the chance to have about 50 ‘side conversations’ that can build long lasting relationships and shape the future and direction of your work or someone else’s? Of course, I came home with LOTS of new ideas that I think we should implement at the WDM Chamber 😊.
My favorite part of the trip was the opportunity to have small group conversations with leaders of West Des Moines including Mayor Russ Trimble, Doug Loots, Matthew McKenney, Greg Hudson, and political leaders including Congresswoman Ashley Hinton, U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and U.S. Senator Joni Ernst. Each of these leaders talked about the challenges of serving and how they are serving Iowa constituents.
During the three days we heard from several speakers including senator Joe Manchin, Major Garrett with CBS News, and more. I started listening to Mayor’s podcast called “The Takeout” and highly recommend it.
The Iowa Congressional Reception was fantastic and included the U.S. Capital as a backdrop for many fun “selfies”. Our group had the honor of seeing the World Food Prize Foundation 2023 Laureate induction given to Heidi Kuhn for her work in replacing land minds with grapevines and fruit trees, ‘from mines to vines’. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was one of the presenters at that event (he had a staff of about 15). It was wonderful to be able to get a selfie with the longest running governor in the U. S. Governor Terry Branstad.
I chose to tour the U.S. Capitol Building where we were able to witness U.S. Senator Cory Booker in action (I really wanted to go to see the famous ‘debt ceiling’ everyone is talking about, lol). Later we were whisked away to the Audi Soccer Stadium and toured this beautiful facility that will be replicated in Des Moines soon (can’t wait!). We chanted “Roy Kent” as we sat in the media briefing room with Nick Callison leading the way. Of course, no trip is complete without going to “The Dubliner” which was frequented a few times by some and many by others. We also visited the Washington Hotel rooftop restaurant, which is a must.
You can breathe a sigh of relief. Thankfully, no one from WDM City Council or the Mayor was injured this year on the scooters. I decided to keep it safe and not partake.
The sponsor presentations were entertaining and added to the experience. From Dart’s “Ride The Buss With Russ”, we learned from Dan Kramer that Shazam is a not-for-profit (who knew?), we saw a photo of Jay Byers from the 10th grade, Scott Raecker talked about civility, and more.
What a trip. I will do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you to all the sponsors that make this possible and thank you to the Greater Des Moines Partnership for organizing this big lift, especially to Andrea Woodard and Ryan Moon. It was one of the best business trips I have been on in my life, and I will see you all next year. #DMDC2023 #DCUnited #DSMUSA