Panelists

Sara Kurovski

Sara Kurovski was elected the youngest and first female mayor in the history of Pleasant Hill, Iowa in 2013 and gained national attention when the story of her path to mayor was included in Sheryl Sandberg’s book: Lean In for Graduates. In 2015, she was recognized as she joined the 40 under 40 list for her impact in Central Iowa and was named the Emerging Women of Influence by the Business Record.

Kurovski is the Tocqueville Society Director at United Way of Central Iowa and has held positions at Metro Waste Authority as Operations Program Manager and Kum & Go as Manager of Sustainability. She has pursued her passion for community betterment through involvement on the Eastern Polk Regional Development Board, Bravo Greater Des Moines Board, Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Management Committee, Des Moines Area Regional Transit Board of Commissioners, Wastewater Reclamation Authority Management Committee, and Iowa Municipalities Worker’s Compensation Association Board. She is also an advocate and supporter of 50-50 in 2020, an organization devoted to the importance of women involvement in politics.

 

Jason Noble

Jason Noble is the chief politics reporter for the Des Moines Register. He has covered presidential politics and Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses since 2011 as well as state government and the Iowa’s federal delegation. He previously was a Statehouse reporter for the Kansas City Star. He is lifelong Midwesterner, a graduate of Iowa State University and has a Master of Public Affairs degree from the Univirsity of Missouri-Columbia.

 

Claudia Schabel

Claudia Schabel, President of Schabel Solutions, combines over a decade of experience as a Diversity and Inclusion practitioner with Fortune 500 companies and her multicultural background to offer coaching and consulting services in the areas of Diversity and Inclusion to businesses, educational and not-for-profit organizations.

Schabel is a commissioner on the City of Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission, and serves on the SHRM State Council as the Director of Diversity.

Schabel is a native of Brazil and speaks Portuguese, Spanish, English and some Japanese. Schabel earned a BA degree in International Relations from Drake University. Schabel lives in Des Moines, Iowa, US.

 

Suku Radia

Recently retired, Suku Radia served as CEO of Bankers Trust for nine years—Iowa’s largest independent community bank with consolidated assets approximating $4.6 Billion. Prior to joining Bankers Trust, Radia served as Chief Financial Officer of Meredith Corporation for eight years and Managing Partner of KPMG in Des Moines from 1993 to 2000. A few highlights of Mr. Radia’s work in numerous professional, economic development, educational and charitable organizations include serving as Tournament Chair for the 2017 Solheim Cup, a Member of the Federal Reserve Bank’s Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council, Vice Chair and Executive Committee member for the Board of United Way of Central Iowa, and on the Executive Committee for the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, Executive Committee, among others.

Mr. Radia is the past recipient of the Strong Voice in Support of Justice Award from the Supreme Court of Iowa (2017), Robert D. Ray Center’s Pillar of Character Award (2015), Iowa State University’s Alumni Merit Award (2012), Des Moines University’s Glanton Scholarship Award (2011), and Iowa Council for International Understanding-Passport to Prosperity Award (2009) and Spirit of Philanthropy Award (2009) among many other distinctions. In 2010, he was inducted into the Iowa Business Hall of Fame and was also named the OneIowa Business Leader of the Year.

He was named Best Metro Business Leader (2012-2017), Best Minority Business Leader (2012-2017) and Most Influential Business Leader (2012-2017).

 

Jay Byers

Jay Byers is CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. The Partnership is the regional economic and community development organization serving Central Iowa with 23 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce and a network of more than 6100 regional members.

Byers is a Certified Chamber Executive (CCE), graduate of the U.S Chamber of Commerce Institute of Organization Management (IOM), graduate of the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute (OUEDI) and graduate of Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives’ (ACCE) Ford Foundation Regionalism and Sustainable Development Fellowship.

Byers currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Iowa Chamber Alliance, ACCE Executive Board, Board of Directors and Community Growth Education Foundation, the General Council of the World Chambers Federation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100. He is active with the Professional Developers of Iowa, Iowa Association of Business and Industry and International Economic Development Council. Byers also serves on the boards of Simpson College, Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greater Des Moines Committee, ChildServe, The Homestead and Drake University’s International Advisory Council. He also is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization.

Byers was named to the ACCE 2009 “40 Under 40 Rising Stars of the Chamber World,” Des Moines Business Record’s “Forty Under 40” Class of 2006, and Business Record’s “Forty Under 40” Alum of the Year in 2012. He received the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau Community Champion Award in 2014 and the Simpson College Alumni Achievement Award in 2015.

Prior to his current role, Byers served as The Partnership’s Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Public Policy. Before joining The Partnership, he worked as District Director for Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell and as a corporate attorney at the Ice Miller Law Firm in Indianapolis, Indiana. Byers is a graduate of Simpson College and the University of Iowa College of Law. He resides in Des Moines, Iowa with his wife, Katie, and two daughters, Sophie and Charlotte.

 

Walker McKusick

Walker McKusick is the National Director of Vote Smart, a non-partisan organization with a mission to provide free, factual, and unbiased information on candidates and elected officials to all Americans. He is originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, where he graduated from the University of Virginia with degrees in History and Economics. While at U.Va., Walker was an Echols Scholar and a recipient of a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award. After graduation, he taught History and Politics in England for a year as a U.K. Teaching and Resident Fellow. He joined Vote Smart in 2015. At Vote Smart, Walker is responsible for day-to-day oversight of all Vote Smart programs, research, staff, operations, facilities, and administration.

 

Ras Smith

Ras Smith was born in Waterloo, IA to L.C and Belinda Smith.  As a youth, he was often his mother’s tagalong to protest and attend meetings with community leaders and other civic venues.  In 2006, Ras graduated from Malcolm Price Lab School. He then attended Wartburg College where he studied Fitness Management and played football.  Ras later graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Exercise Science. Ras is currently finishing his Master’s degree in Leisure, Youth and Human Services at the University of Northern Iowa. 

As a member of the community Ras has been active in mentoring youth, faith based outreach and community based exercise initiative.  As a part of youth outreach, Ras served as a volunteer football coach at East High School, while serving as the strength and conditioning coach. Ras has also been a volunteer for the Salvation Army and the Northeast Iowa Foodbank.  With an emphasis on youth development and reducing barriers to youth success, Ras was invited as a speaker at the African American Conference for Children and Families for two consecutive years, presenting on the topic of racial microaggression. 


Professionally, Ras has worked with the Juvenile Court system and for Four Oaks agency providing youth counseling and assisting troubled youth in being rehabilitated to pursue a more positive future.  Most recently, Ras has served as the Site Coordinator for the nationally recognized non-profit organization, Communities In Schools.  In this role Ras works to provide “wrap-around” services for at-risk youth at George Washington Carver Academy.