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WDM Chamber Announces 2022 Citizen, Emerging Citizen of the Year

WEST DES MONES, IA (THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2022) – For the 77th consecutive year, the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce (WDM Chamber) has announced the annual West Des Moines (WDM) Citizen and Emerging Citizen of the Year, Steven and the late Kent Gaer and Gianna Pugliese.

Steven Gaer recently completed 14.5 years of service as the Mayor of West Des Moines in 2021. Prior to his service as Mayor, Steven served 8 years on WDM City Council. Under his leadership as mayor, the City of West Des Moines experienced significant growth and development as the residential population increased from 46,403 (2000 census) to 68,723 (2020 census) and building permits surpassed $1 billion in 2021. Additionally, during his tenure, the City of West Des Moines completed community projects including the MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex, Jamie Hurd Amphitheater, and launched the construction of a city-wide fiber-optic conduit network to provide commercial and residential users increased broadband access and speed. He will retire as COO and General Counsel at West Des Moines-based R&R Realty Group on August 31, 2022 and then serve as President of Recoop Disaster Insurance, a West Des Moines-based company offering multi-peril disaster insurance products. Kent Gaer was a lifelong educator, initially teaching for Des Moines Public Schools then serving in the West Des Moines Community School District at Valley High School for 34 years as a teacher, boys’ basketball coach, assistant football coach, and finally as an administrator. Kent was also an active servant to the WDM community, serving on WDM City Council for 16 years and the West Des Moines Water Works Board of Trustees for 20 years, the last 10 of which he served as Chairman. The Gaer family legacy in West Des Moines traces back over 70 years.

“It is a great privilege and honor to be recognized along with my late father as WDM’s citizen of the year,” said Steven Gaer. “I have learned first-hand over my 22 years on City Council and as Mayor how our city is so positively impacted by the many citizens who volunteer their time, talents and resources to help ensure an opportunity for a high quality of life for all of our city’s residents.”      

Gianna Pugliese is the Intercultural Outreach Coordinator for the West Des Moines Community School District. An advocate for the refugee and immigrant communities in West Des Moines, Pugliese collaborates with both public and private, non-profit organizations to create a welcoming and positive environment for refugee and immigrant students and families in West Des Moines. She is an active member of the Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa, Iowa Joint Voluntary Agency, Latino Service Providers Coalition, Des Moines World Refugee Day Planning Committee, and the WDM Community Refugee and Immigrant Stakeholders organization where she works to improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts while simultaneously empowering culturally and linguistically diverse individuals to become leaders within their respective communities. Pugliese is a resident of West Des Moines.

“It's such an honor to be recognized for work that I'm so passionate about,” said Pugliese. “I'm grateful to be doing this work alongside so many other committed individuals and organizations. Thank you so much to the community and to the WDM Chamber of Commerce for this incredible award."

Both award recipients will be honored at the WDM Chamber’s Citizen of the Year Luncheon on June 9 at Valley Community Center in conjunction with an address on the state of the city from WDM Mayor Russ Trimble. Registration for the luncheon is $5 for WDM Chamber members and $10 for non-members. Food and beverage will be available for purchase from Culinary Nomad. Those interested in attending can learn more and register via 
the WDM Chamber’s website.

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About the WDM Chamber of Commerce
The mission of the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce is to champion all things West Des Moines by strengthening our area companies, providing personalized resources, and attracting a top workforce to position WDM as the best suburban city in America. With 700+ members, we provide something for everyone. Learn more about the chamber and how to get involved at wdmchamber.org.