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JANUARY 29, 2024
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Have you taken our survey about the status of gender equity in Iowa in 2024? If not, please do! You can find it here. We would love to hear from you.

In this week’s Fearless e-newsletter, you will find:

  • An in-depth profile of Erin Kuhl, the 2024 Deloitte CFO of the Year. Kuhl is the chief financial officer and chief of staff at Krause Group.
  • A short story about the inaugural Maternal and Infant Health Day, which will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday (yes, tomorrow!) at the Iowa Capitol Rotunda.
  • In the headlines: The University of Iowa named Beth Goetz as its athletic director, smashing a glass ceiling. Goetz is the only female athletics director in the Big Ten.
  • A break from the news: The Palmer Candy Co. in Sioux City is celebrating a major milestone – its Twin Bing candy bar is turning 100 years old. Find out which Business Record employee lost a baby tooth while biting into a Twin Bing as a child.
  • Lots more!

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

Deloitte CFO of the Year 2024: Erin Kuhl
Photo by Duane Tinkey.
In August 2023, Krause Group finalized its sale of Kum & Go and Solar Transport to Maverik, making the Utah-based group the 12th-largest convenience store chain in the U.S.

One of the key figures getting that transaction across the finish line was Erin Kuhl, the 2024 Deloitte Chief Financial Officer of the Year. The award honors an often unsung individual who demonstrates outstanding performance in his, her or their role as corporate financial steward.

Kuhl first joined Kum & Go in April 2019 as CFO before taking on the same position with Krause Group in June 2021. In April 2023, she added chief of staff to her title, a position that is 90% duties as assigned, she said.

In addition to playing a key role in the transaction, Kuhl said one of the achievements that gives her the most pride is nurturing and developing great teams.

“One of the things I think is really important is getting to know people, not just getting to know them as people but what their skills are and what they’re good at and putting them in situations and assigning them work, roles and responsibilities that match up with what they’re good at,” Kuhl said. “Two people can be great at accounting or financial modeling, but their personalities and the way that they work and what motivates them can make one of them better for one situation over another. So I think it’s kind of this right person, right seat, and putting everyone in a position where their impact can be maximized is how I build that team aspect of it.

“I’m a firm believer that when people are in those situations, when they’re put in situations so they can make a bigger impact, that drives the success of the team as a whole and creates a great chemistry among a group of people.”

Kuhl, who is originally from Las Vegas, moved to Des Moines in 2010 after spending the previous six years at PwC Chicago. She worked as the manager of accounting policy and transaction support for Aviva for three years before becoming director of financial reporting and later vice president and controller at Athene, which bought Aviva in 2013.

During her 13 years working in Des Moines, Kuhl has been invested in the community, currently as a board member of the finance and executive committees for Oakridge Neighborhood; as a board member of the executive committee for MercyOne Des Moines Foundation; and in various positions with United Way of Central Iowa.

Past community engagement includes roles with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa, the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, Winefest Des Moines and DSM Financial Executive Women. Kuhl was also recognized in the Business Record Forty Under 40 class of 2020.

“Erin is synonymous with action,” Shannon Cofield, president of the MercyOne Des Moines Foundation Board, said in a letter recommending Kuhl for the award. “No matter the issue at hand, she provides sound advice and actionable solutions. Each encounter with her is enlightening and joyful. She is not only a tremendous CFO with years of financial experience; she is truly an inspiring and dedicated professional who is very deserving of this honor.”

The Business Record recently sat down with Kuhl to learn more about her career, the role she had in the Kum & Go sale and her leadership style. The responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

You grew up in Las Vegas, and your first job out of college was in Chicago, so how did you wind up in Des Moines?

I moved to Des Moines on a little bit of a trial basis. My husband is from Des Moines. We moved here not really sure if we would like it. He didn’t really want to move back necessarily, but we came back and haven’t left. Here we are, 13 years later.

Why is community involvement so meaningful to you?

I think it’s really interesting how a lot of people take their skills and their talents, whether they’re innate as a person or their professional skills, for granted. And you just kind of underestimate just how helpful they can be to a nonprofit or an organization who maybe doesn’t have someone on their staff who has those skills. For me, with my financial knowledge and skills, I can look at financial statements and right away just know, ‘Oh yeah, here are 10 observations’ or ‘Have you thought about this?’ It takes 20 minutes, and it’s so helpful to them, and I think that motivates me to give back or just realize that it’s not about doing something that’s going out of your way or a burden. Anyone out there, whatever your skill is, it could be beneficial, and you can give in a way that is so appreciated. It’s so easy, it comes so naturally, whatever that thing is for any person. That’s your skill, and you don’t think of it as work, or you don’t think of it as hard, and for a lot of nonprofits, they don’t have those skill sets on staff. And it just makes such a difference, even 30 minutes, an hour. I think that’s been something I learned earlier on in my career and in just my time of service is that it feels great to be able to help them. And then also, it is a skill to raise money, ask people for money. I think as you work in nonprofits and have been a part of a number of different capital campaigns, fundraising campaigns, I chaired the Tocqueville Society campaign this year, so once you get that skill figured out of how to ask people for money, that’s also clearly very helpful for nonprofits. It’s scary when you don’t know how to do it, or when you’re uncomfortable with it. Once you kind of get that mastered a little bit, you can add so much value to an organization, and it’s not that hard.

Are there any other accomplishments, either individually or as an organization, that you’ve especially been proud of?

I think the [Kum & Go] transaction we did in 2023 is a huge accomplishment. It will likely be the largest transaction I ever do in my career. I think it’s one of the biggest transactions that will happen in Des Moines, in Iowa. It’s hard to not call that an accomplishment, but that’s not my accomplishment. It was all of us. I played a significant role in the transaction, but ultimately it was Kyle’s [Krause’s] transaction and the Krause Group’s transaction. My personality is maybe less inclined to point to transaction-type accomplishments. I lean more toward that people stuff.

Will you share about the role you had in the sale?

I was kind of the key point person running the deal. I worked with our investment bankers, prepared transaction documents, sale documents and marketing documents. I ran point on some of the management meeting preparation. I was really kind of involved in all pieces from the beginning until the end of really selecting our team, our external advisers and who we would be working with preparing those marketing materials and launching the deal, working with diligence with different counterparties who we worked with along the way as potential buyers for Kum & Go and Solar Transport. Once we got to announcing the deal in April [2023], the bulk of my work was all kind of culminating up until that. And then once it was kind of out in public, then you have every person in the company to help you, and so a lot of the work went out further after that. It was clearly something that was kept very tight with a small group of people. It was clearly a privilege with the Krause family to be able to play the role that I did in helping Kyle get that across the finish line.

You mentioned that opportunities like those don’t come around very often, so how were you able to prepare yourself to take on that role, and what did you learn from it?

There’s really no preparing yourself. It’s a significant amount of work, and there’s no training or preparation that you could probably have for that. In terms of what I learned, just being able to have a front-row seat to a transaction through every stage – I’ve played a role in other transactions in the past where I was involved in a portion of it – so I think just knowledge of the end-to-end transaction process as a whole, there’s probably an endless number of things that I learned. At the end of the day, the other big lesson is it takes a lot of work from a lot of people to get something like that done, and you have to work together as a team, make difficult decisions, challenging decisions. If I had to boil it down to one thing, I think the importance of clear, regular communication, you gotta keep everyone informed, being the hub or the main coordinator, kind of point person – just constantly making sure that the right people have the right information. I was keeping Kyle in the loop. When a decision needed to be made, just make sure the right person had it. I think just regular, clear communication makes everything go smoother, so that was really a very, very important part of my job through the entire transaction.
Advocates to hold first Maternal and Infant Health Day at Iowa Capitol on Jan. 30
Photo by Duane Tinkey.
Iowa advocacy groups that focus on improving maternal and infant health are coming together tomorrow for the inaugural Maternal and Infant Health Day at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines.

Members of the public who wish to share their postpartum stories or voice their support of policies that will improve maternal and infant health outcomes can join the event from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Iowa Capitol Rotunda.

This bipartisan event will focus on policies to improve the maternal health of Iowa’s pregnant and postpartum women, which will also lower infant mortality rates and create better economic outcomes for the state’s small businesses, according to a news release by the groups.

Members of Postpartum Support International (PSI-IA), the International Cesarean Awareness Network of Central Iowa (ICAN) and the Des Moines Midwife Collective organized the event.

“Policies we’ll be speaking with legislators about include expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage, allowing birth centers to be built without a certificate of need and retaining the state’s newly appointed Midwifery Advisory Council,” Rachel Bruns, leader of the International Cesarean Awareness Network of Central Iowa, said in a prepared statement. “All of these action items support the physical and mental health of Iowa’s parents, which also positively affects their children and the state’s economy.”

The group will be voicing their support of HSB 500, a bill that would extend Medicaid coverage to women 12 months postpartum instead of the current 60 days. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke favorably of the expansion in her 2024 Condition of the State address. Reynolds proposed lowering the income eligibility for this coverage.

Maternal and infant health advocates at the Capitol will be voicing support to keep the current eligibility requirements for several reasons, according to a news release by the advocacy groups.

“Medicaid covers almost 50% of the births in our state, and it’s basic health care coverage for many working moms who don’t have health insurance options through their employer,” Brittney Haskins, PSI-IA’s board chair, said in a prepared statement. “Further limiting who can access medical care after having a baby will have negative effects on Iowa’s moms, which in turn creates poorer outcomes for their infants.”

Photo courtesy of the University of Iowa.
In the headlines
University of Iowa names Beth Goetz as athletics director, smashing a glass ceiling: Beth Goetz was named athletics director at the University of Iowa on Jan. 18, the first time a woman has overseen the full department. Goetz, 49, has served as interim athletics director since Aug. 2, 2023, following Gary Barta’s retirement. She was hired as deputy athletics director and chief operating officer for 11 months before replacing Barta. It’s a historical move for Iowa, which was the first public university to admit men and women on an equal basis. The only woman to hold a similar role at Iowa was Christine Grant, who was women’s athletics director from 1973 through her retirement in 2001. The department merged following Grant’s departure. Goetz currently is the only female athletics director in the Big Ten, according to this story in the Athletic. “From when the moment she stepped on campus, everybody could just sense and know how hard she worked,” said Iowa women’s basketball associate head coach Jan Jensen. “When we got to go on that (Final Four) run, she was with us and just working her tail off. I’d be up watching film and I’d go down and there’s Beth working.”

Four anti-abortion centers picked to receive state funding under MOMS program: Four pregnancy resource centers have been selected to receive state funding under the controversial new state program to provide taxpayer dollars to anti-abortion facilities, according to this story in the Des Moines Register. The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that it will award four grants under the state's "More Options for Maternal Support," or MOMS program, a Gov. Kim Reynolds-backed proposal to offer "pregnancy support services" to Iowans. The grants will be awarded to Alternatives Pregnancy Center, located in Cedar Falls and Waterloo; Bethany Christian Services of Northwest Iowa, which has multiple locations across Iowa; Informed Choices of Iowa, based in Iowa City and Burlington; and Lutheran Services of Iowa, also located statewide. Total funding amounts awarded to each organization will be determined through contract negotiations, which are scheduled to be completed by Feb. 14, according to HHS.

Removing gender identity from Iowa Civil Rights Act proposed by Iowa House Republican: The Iowa Civil Rights Act would be changed by removing gender identity as a protected class, and by adding gender dysphoria to disabilities covered by the act, under legislation that will be considered by state lawmakers this week at the Iowa Capitol. Created in 1965, the Iowa Civil Rights Act prevents discrimination based on identifying characteristics like age, race, color, religion, national origin, or disability. The Act was amended in 2007 to add sexual orientation and gender identity. A bill introduced by Iowa state lawmaker Jeff Shipley, a Republican from Birmingham, would remove gender identity from the Iowa Civil Rights Act, according to this story in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Iowa bill would allow minors to work alone in baby, toddler day care classrooms: Sixteen- and 17-year-olds would be allowed to care for infants and toddlers at child care centers without direct supervision under a bill that advanced Jan. 23 in the Iowa House of Representatives. In 2022, the Legislature passed a law that allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to care for school-age kids in child care centers without an adult teacher in the room. The new bill would allow child care workers under the age of 18 to care for children of any age without an adult in the room, according to this story by Iowa Public Radio. There would have to be at least two adults present elsewhere in the facility. Rep. Devon Wood, R-New Market, said she supports the bill because it was proposed by some child care center directors, and they are facing workforce shortages. Ryan Page, director of child care for the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, said the bill is concerning because it would allow a 16-year-old to be solely responsible for a classroom of four babies, seven 2-year-olds, or 10 3-year-olds.

Des Moines Art Center says it will dismantle ‘Greenwood Pond: Double Site’ because it does not have the money to repair it: The American land artist and designer Mary Miss was traveling in Europe in October when she received the kind of news that no one in her line of work wants to hear. One of her most significant artworks, owned by an Iowa museum, would need to be closed to the public because it had fallen into disrepair and parts of it were at risk of collapsing. Six weeks later, Miss heard from the Des Moines Art Center that her environmental installation would be dismantled entirely. The word came from the art center’s new director, Kelly Baum, who said it would cost $2.7 million to repair the project, leaving the museum no choice. Created between 1989 and 1996, “Greenwood Pond: Double Site” is one of the very few environmental installations in the collection of any American museum and is considered to be the first urban wetland project in the country. Its imminent demolition has angered landscape architecture advocates and upset Miss, who is part of a generation of pioneering female land artists receiving renewed scholarly attention, according to this story in the New York Times.

Bill would give Iowa flexibility to administer grants for anti-abortion pregnancy centers: The state of Iowa could directly send taxpayer dollars to anti-abortion pregnancy centers without using a third-party administrator under a new proposal in the Legislature, according to this story by Iowa Public Radio. Republican lawmakers established the More Options for Maternal Support, or MOMS, program in 2022 to fund anti-abortion pregnancy centers. Last year, they increased the funding to a total of $2 million. But the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services still has not distributed money to pregnancy centers because it has failed twice to find an organization that fulfills the law’s requirements for an administrator. Rep. Jon Dunwell, R-Newton, filed a bill that would give the department more flexibility. It would strike the requirement for the administrator to have three years of experience in Iowa, and it would allow the state to administer the program until officials hire a suitable nonprofit. “We’ve got moms who need help, that need resources, that we could be helping out,” Dunwell said. “And I don’t want the narrowness of a bill to get in the way of that.”

Worth checking out
Five myths about women and money that need to be debunked (Washington Post). Iowa City nurse donates kidney through swap program to help Dubuque teen (Cedar Rapids Gazette). Coronary artery bypass grafting was studied mostly in men. Women are paying the price. (New York Times). For ‘Barbie’ fans online, a bitterly ironic Oscar snub (New York Times). The birth of my daughter, the death of my marriage (the New Yorker). Honorees for 2024 Women Impacting ISU recognized by Catt Center (Iowa State Daily).
Do you have a story about Twin Bing candy bars?
Did you know that the Twin Bing candy bar is celebrating its 100th birthday? I enjoyed this story by Des Moines Register columnist Courtney Crowder, who toured the Palmer Candy Co. factory in Sioux City where the candy bars are manufactured.

Any chance you have a special Twin Bing memory? I have one, and it’s about as stereotypically Iowan as stories get.

I grew up on a farm in Monona County. Sometime in the very late 1980s, my family was waiting near a field for my Dad to make “just a few more rounds” in the tractor. We were sitting around in our blue Chevy suburban – my mom, my younger brother, my younger sister and me. We were bored and hungry. It was late.

My mom gave each of us one haystack of a Twin Bing. We didn’t get candy often outside of holidays, so we were thrilled. I remember biting into the Twin Bing and feeling a brief twinge of pain. One of my front baby teeth ended up stuck in the pink nougat center.

My biggest concern was that my mom wouldn’t let me continue to eat the candy bar. But she didn’t seem to mind. I’m guessing Iowa farm wives during the height of the Farm Crisis had much bigger concerns than a little blood on a candy bar.

We took the tooth home and put it in a glass of water. The tooth fairy brought me a $1 bill overnight.

I still associate Twin Bing candy bars with both farming and baby teeth.

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