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New Leaders Council

Advisory Council

Meet our Advisory Council

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson has worked on progressive campaigns and bipartisan causes for more than a decade. Since 2004 Anderson managed local, national and international campaigns and assisted corporations and non-profit organizations with management and public relations strategies to grow their brand strengthen their bottom line. With a background in research and communications, Brad served as former Iowa Governor Chet Culver's communications director in 2006 and in 2010 worked with farmers, hunters, business leaders and Republicans to pass a constitutional amendment in Iowa creating a trust fund aimed at cleaning Iowa waterways and protecting Iowa soil. He has worked on campaigns in Ukraine, Hungary and Iraqi Kurdisan, and in 2012 served as Iowa State Director for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, winning the state by increasing voter turnout from historic 2008 levels and turning a voter registration deficit into a registration surplus. In 2014 Anderson sought public office himself running "the perfect campaign" according to the Des Moines Register as the Democratic nominee for Iowa Secretary of State.

Brad lives in Des Moines, Iowa with his wife Lisa, two children and dog Gracie Caramel.

Joe Benesh

Joe Benesh is the President and CEO of the Ingenuity Company, located in Des Moines.

The Ingenuity Company specializes in Strategic Planning, Diagramming, Organizational and Leadership / Change Facilitation, Design Thinking, Framework Development, Process Analysis and Development / Synthesis, Creativity and Team Design, Responsive Mobile and Web Application Development.

Joe is passionate about helping organizations succeed. With a process rooted in innovation, Joe seeks to empower organizations with intelligent, scalable, and dynamic solutions to accelerate their ability to achieve higher ROIs, streamlined resources, increased capacity, more satisfied clients, and fulfilled personnel.

He has facilitated a strategic planning process for NLC, as well as presented on communication and strategic planning many times over the course of NLC’s tenure in Des Moines. He also has presented to the national NLC organization on strategic planning at their annual retreat. He is excited to be involved as an advisor to the group and hopes to continue to help NLC build capacity and impact here in Greater Des Moines.

Among the many boards Joe serves on, he is member of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa, Vice-President of Operations for Iowa Stage Theatre Company, a Past-President of the Downtown Des Moines Chamber of Commerce (where he currently chairs their strategic partnerships task force), a Past-President of the AIA Iowa Central Iowa Architects Council, and facilitates the Emerging Leaders Collaborative (ELC), a subsection of the Social Capital of Capital Crossroads. Joe is a member of the steering committee of Capital Crossroads V2.0 and also Co-Chair / Co-Founder of Greater Des Moines Experienced Professionals (GAP), a group dedicated to developing, actualizing, and empowering the next generation of leaders in the greater Des Moines area. Joe is also chair for two ABI Foundation Boards and a current member of ABI’s Leadership Iowa class.

Rob Barron

Rob Barron is a Des Moines native who is currently serving his second term on the Des Moines School Board.  He was the first Latino elected to the Des Moines School Board and was recently honored by his alma mater, Grinnell College, with their Wall Alumni Service Award for founding the Latino Political Network, a non-profit focused on educating and empowering Latinos to run for office in Iowa.  He works at Grand View University for President Kent Henning as Special Assistant for Government and Community Relations where he leads Grand View’s efforts to strengthen ties with their neighbors through the Views Forward Program.

Izaah Knox

Izaah works to develop new programming to attract, train, and retain employees at Wellmark, while also serving as the incoming executive director for Urban Dreams. Before working these concurrent positions, he worked at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) as an adjunct professor, academic outreach advisor, and YouthBuild education specialist, where he won numerous awards and accolades. He currently sits on multiple boards of directors, member of a few advisory/steering committees, and is chair of the City of Des Moines Human and Civil Rights Commission. In 2016 he was selected as a Des Moines Business Record’s Forty Under 40.

Izaah is a two-time Drake University graduate, with an undergrad degree in public relations and a Master’s from the School of Education. As part of his Master of Science in Leadership Development, he conducted a research project on Urban Revitalization and the Role of Neighborhood Associations in Des Moines. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Iowa State University. His dissertation is focused on upward mobility, education, and community engagement within depressed urban areas. He enjoys researching trends and is known for being ahead of the curve on developments related to employment, social issues, and education. He is a sought-after curriculum developer and trainer for everything from restorative justice for young adults to engaging youth in employment and civic responsibility.

Izaah and his wife, Jenna, live in the historic Riverbend neighborhood with their three children, Chance, Porter, and Johnnie. They enjoy being together while being active physically, volunteering, and traveling. 

Brenda Kole

Brenda is currently the Assistant Director of Operations at The Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University.

She recently served as the Trip and Surrogates Director in various states across the country for Hillary for America, spending the General Election in Pennsylvania. She managed in-state trips for Secretary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Presidents Clinton and Obama, Vice President Biden, Michelle Obama, Senator Kaine and Anne Holton.

Before joining the Hillary for America campaign, Brenda served as a Senior Advisor on the Hatch/Vernon Gubernatorial campaign, the Campaign Manager for Monica Vernon for Congress in Iowa's First Congressional District in 2014, and the Director of Advocacy and Organizing at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

Before joining Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Brenda worked on a number of other political campaigns; including the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton in 2008, the re-election campaign of Iowa’s former Governor, Tom Vilsack and the campaign of the first woman elected to congress from Minnesota, Betty McCollum.

She has also worked for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) political arm and was the state coordinator for NARAL Pro-Choice America in Iowa.

Brenda graduated from St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, MN with a degree in Applied Sociology and Criminal Justice and earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Drake University.  She lives in Des Moines with her two Bernese Mountain Dogs, Bella and Beau.

Josh Mandlebaum

Josh Mandelbaum is serving his first term as the Ward 3 City Councilmember for Des Moines. Josh was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. He is the product of Des Moines public schools having attended Hanawalt Elementary School, Merrill Middle School, Roosevelt High School and Central Academy. Josh has left Des Moines and returned twice – first to attend Brown University and then to attend the University of Iowa College of Law. He currently lives on the west side of Des Moines with his wife Katherine, his son Liam (3), daughter Ayla (1) and black lab Truman (3).

Josh served as a policy advisor to Governor Vilsack and Lt. Governor Pederson. During his service, Josh had a role in many of the Vilsack-Pederson administration accomplishments such as the establishment of the Iowa Veterans Cemetery, the creation of the Office of Asian and Pacific Islanders, and initiation of a Spanish language interpreter program. His efforts helped thousands of Iowans receive increased access to health care through the hawk-i and Medicaid programs, and improved mental health, family planning, and wellness care through legislative initiatives.

When he left the Vilsack-Pederson administration, Josh went to law school at the University of Iowa. After graduating from law school, Josh worked at a firm in the Quad Cities before returning to Des Moines to work for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Josh is a leading voice for Iowa’s clean energy economy working on policies and regulatory proceedings that promote wind, solar, and energy efficiency. Josh is a strong advocate for improving Iowa’s water quality. He has successfully fought in court to protect and enforce water quality standards, and he is engaged in collaborative efforts advocating for water quality funding and increased adoption of conservation practices.

Josh has always been committed to his community. As a member of the Polk County Early Childhood Iowa board, he works to provide quality early childhood education and child care to all of Polk County. He is a founding advisory board member of the University of Iowa REACH (Realizing Education and Career Hopes) program that provides students with cognitive and learning disabilities the post-secondary training they need to hold employment and live independently. He attends Temple B’nai Jeshurun on Grand Avenue. He currently serves on the Greater Des Moines Jewish Federation and has previously served as a board member of the Iowa Jewish Life Center on Polk Boulevard.

Josh has been recognized as a community leader. He is a graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute. He was honored as a member of the Midwest Energy News 2016 40 under 40 class for his leadership on clean energy issues. His professional accomplishments and civic commitment to the community earned him recognition as part of the Des Moines Business Record’s 2017 40 under 40 class.

Heather Matson

Heather Matson has 19 years experience working and volunteering in public policy, advocacy, and development.  She is currently a candidate for the Iowa state legislature in House District 38.  Her experience in government affairs includes five years in Washington, DC with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.  Her political experience includes her own campaign for the Iowa State House in 2016 as well as various roles on campaigns for Senator John Kerry, Congressman Leonard Boswell, Dusky Terry, and Governor Tom Vilsack.  She also spent five years contracting as a legislative bill tracker for Campbell/Patterson Consulting.  Most recently, Heather served as the Development Director for the Des Moines Social Club, a local arts and culture nonprofit.

Heather is strongly committed to volunteerism, with a particular focus on public policy and raising funds for the causes she holds dear.  She served as Vice-Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party from 2013-2015 where she focused her attention on bringing a new generation of supporters as donors into the Party structure.  She previously served as Chair of Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa and has been a passionate advocate for advancing a pro-women's health message in state politics and policy.  Heather now serves as Vice-Chair on the board of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa.  

A native of Rhode Island, Heather holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Western New England College and a master’s degree in legislative affairs from The George Washington University.  Heather lives in Ankeny with her husband, Dr. Chris Matson, and their eight year old twins, Emma and Henry.  

Judy McCoy Davis

Judy McCoy Davis has been involved in political campaigns and governmental relations for over 50 years.  She worked her first plant gate while still in high school and worked on Bobby Kennedy’s national campaign while going to college in Washington D.C.  She co-owned a jewelry store in Dubuque that specialized in custom gold work.  After moving to Des Moines, Judy served as the executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party, then ran her husband’s successful campaign for Des Moines mayor. For the last eighteen years she has had her own consulting company, focused on working with non-profit organizations on governance, fund development and governmental and community relations.  

Judy has served on numerous national, state, and local boards.  This includes serving on the US Senate’s Small Business Advisory Council, chairing the Dubuque Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, being president of the Des Moines Public Library Foundation and co-chairing their 23 million dollar campaign.  She chaired the Iowa Empowerment/Early Childhood Iowa Board and still serves on the Polk County ECI board.  She was on of the founders of the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Connection.

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