December 10, 2022

Happy Saturday! As 2022 comes to a close, we wanted to reflect on who's made the biggest difference in our city this year.

Today's Smart Brevity™ count is 734 words, a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Meet Des Moines' 2022 power players

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

👋 Jason and Linh here: We meet remarkable people every day who shape our community.

  • Some of them are well-known across the country, while others don't make the headlines they deserve.

Why it matters: They help get things done, hopefully motivating and inspiring us all to do better.

Methodology: We selected these power players using our own expertise and by polling readers.

  • You may not like some people on our list, but we believe they unequivocally have some sort of power in our community.
  • The unscientific list is produced entirely by the Axios Local editorial team and is not influenced by advertising.
  • People who made the power list were not notified of their selection until publication.

1. Kim Reynolds, governor

Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Biggest moves of 2022: Kim Reynolds is the first woman to serve as Iowa governor, and she secured her second full term this year with nearly 60% of the vote.

  • She signed into law what she describes as Iowa's most historic tax reform bill, to cut individual income tax rates by more than five percentage points by 2026.

What we're watching: Whether Reynolds' 2022 accomplishments will be overshadowed by her political ads and support in banning transgender girls from playing school sports that align with their gender identity.

  • Yes, and: We have an eye on what her next steps might be in trying to narrow abortion access. She's also expected to renew her "school choice" plans.

2. Kuuku Saah, community organizer

Photo: Courtesy of Carter Larson

Biggest moves of 2022: As president of the Des Moines Music Coalition, Kuuku Saah helped restart the 80/35 music festival after a two-year pandemic-related hiatus.

The intrigue: Saah, 33, moved from Ghana when he was 18 under the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program and attended Drake University.

What we're watching: His work as a board member of One Economy Financial Development Corp.

  • The DSM-based group is focused on improving the financial stability of low-income people with an emphasis on the Black community.

3. Kimberly Graham, Polk County attorney-elect

Photo: Courtesy of Kimberly Graham

Biggest moves of 2022: Kimberly Graham won November's election and is expected to shake things up as the first new Polk County attorney in 30 years after John Sarcone retires in January.

What we're watching: How Graham's judicial philosophies influence arrests, especially of crimes that disproportionately affect people of color.

  • She has vowed to forego prosecuting low-level crimes like minor marijuana possession, in favor of more mental health and drug treatment.

4. Refugee services in Des Moines

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

We're recognizing an array of organizations that are doing everything from welcoming Afghan refugees at the airport to helping them become permanent U.S. citizens.

Biggest move of 2022: A new partnership between the University of Iowa, Drake's Refugee Clinic and Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice is a new layer of assistance for Afghans who need legal help becoming citizens.

  • Despite the circumstances that led to them fleeing Afghanistan, they are still at risk of being deported.

What we're watching: Only so much can be done locally. But Congress can help give Afghan evacuees a pathway to citizenship.

5. Joe and Alex Tripp, owners of Little Brother

The Tripp family. Photo: Courtesy of Joe and Alex Tripp.

Joe and Alex Tripp are the owners of one of this year's most talked about restaurants, Little Brother, in Windsor Heights.

Biggest move of 2022: Early in the year, they rebranded the restaurant formerly known as RC Diner, as a nod to their three kids, whom they wanted to feel welcome in the diner space.

  • The restaurant's menu has Jewish influences, such as Manischewitz-Braised Short Rib Skillet ($16) and Mom's Matzah Ball Soup ($5).
  • To support his staff and experiment with a better work-life balance for them, Joe Tripp implemented four-day work weeks this year for his chefs at Harbinger, his fine-dining restaurant along Ingersoll.

What we're watching: Expect the couple's brand to continue to grow.

  • Joe said he plans on opening a second Little Brother location and he's also finalizing a standalone spot in Beaverdale for his Korean fried chicken concept, Basic Bird.

6. 👀 Who we're watching

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

We also have our eyes on a few rising stars that could have a big 2023.

🐘 Deidre DeJear, the 2022 Democratic nominee for Iowa governor: She lost this year's race but vowed to keep fighting.

🏳️‍🌈 Courtney Reyes, the executive director of One Iowa. Reyes had a major year of work after Iowa banned trans girls from competing in sports that align with their identity and LGBT-themed books became controversial in some schools. One Iowa's work will be even more crucial in years to come.

🥧 Pie Bird Pies is a queer-owned, home-based pie shop that primarily relied on its Instagram account and pop-up shops to spread word of its delicious baked goods.

  • Now, creators Kristen Daily and Andrea Piekarczyk have gained such a big following, they are getting ready to open their own brick-and-mortar with Bread by Chelsa B.
  • Beyond serving up delicious baked goods, Pie Bird Pies donates to the community, supporting causes like "Bake for Ukraine."

🥂 Thanks for reading.

Know of anyone we should be watching for 2023? Send us an email and let us know.