Team Scott Raecker
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Scott Raecker serves as Director of The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University (formerly known as Character Counts In Iowa) – a position he has held since the work of the center was founded by former Governor Robert D. Ray as a lasting legacy to the Iowa Sesquicentennial in 1997. 

The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center was created by Drake University to serve as a local, regional, national and global resource for applied research and programming in the areas of leadership, ethics and civility. The Ray Center is a national partner of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, where Scott has previously served as both Chairman of the Board and CEO, as well as the Institute for Excellence & Ethics. From the preschool environment to the corporate boardroom, The Ray Center is coordinating efforts to create a positive environment of civility, principled decision-making and ethical leadership in our daily lives.

Scott’s commitment to positively impact the lives of others was also reflected in his 14 years of public service as a member of the Iowa House of Representatives from 1999 through 2012. In the legislature, Scott served in numerous leadership roles including chair of the House Appropriations Committee, chair of the Ethics Committee, and chair of the Midwest Council of Government’s Legislative Leadership Institute.

Scott is involved in numerous civic volunteer efforts.  Scott serves as a board member of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Drake University School of Education National Advisory Board, Board Member Emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folk Life and Cultural Studies Advisory Board, Drake Bulldog Club Board, Shining City Foundation, and board member of the Rotary Club of Des Moines AM. Scott is a member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and Urbandale Chambers of Commerce. 

Scott is a graduate of Grinnell College where he received his B.A. in Political Science and Religious Studies.  Scott is also certified as a character development specialist and corporate ethics trainer through the Josephson Institute of Ethics and has recently been featured as a keynote speaker on ethics and civility to state legislatures across the United States.

Scott and his wife, Martha, live in Urbandale and have two adult children, Emily and Max.


   Deb Brewer-Cotlar
Program Coordinator
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Deb Brewer-Cotlar joined The Ray Center as Program Coordinator in July 2017.  A native of Des Moines, she graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor’s degree in general studies in business.  She holds certification as Senior Professional in Human Resources.

Prior to joining The Ray Center, Deb worked as an Employment Specialist at the Career Connection Center/Goodwill Industries of Central Iowa.  Prior to her non-for-profit experience Deb worked for 18 years with DuPont Pioneer in Human Resources, supporting her division in the areas of employee relations, training and development and served as Company Inclusion and Diversity Manager.

Deb has developed a deep passion for working with and supporting others with an emphasis on women’s and children’s causes.  These include Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Junior League of Des Moines, the J. B. Morris and Mary Wood scholarship committees, Anawim Housing and most recently Dress for Success.  She has also served as Executive Director of the YWCA of Greater Des Moines, Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa and is currently serving as Interim Executive Director of The Iowa Youth Chorus during  their search.  She has dual memberships with Corinthian Baptist and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Churches where she is involved in their choirs and serves on the Human Needs Committee at St. Andrews.

Deb lives in Des Moines with her husband, Larry Cotlar, who is currently the voice of the Drake Men’s Basketball Team.   She is the proud mother of Zachary and enjoys spending time with her grandchildren: Oliver and Frederick.


Team   Jeff Kluever
Assistant Director, Programs
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Jeff Kluever joined The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center team as an Assistant Director – Programs in February of 2015. A native of Norwalk, IA, Jeff graduated from Grinnell College with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and his Initial Teaching License for Secondary Social Studies Education. After several years of teaching and coaching, Jeff accepted a position as an intern with Wartburg College football team for one season, and then spent two years as a Graduate Assistant with the Carroll University football team. While at Carroll, Jeff earned his Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. He then accepted a position as Executive Director of the Allen County Historical Society in Iola, Kansas, a position he held for two and a half years. Jeff then accepted an opportunity to become the Education Supervisor at Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier in Petersburg, Virginia.

After several years on the East Coast, Jeff and his wife Holly decided that they were Midwesterners at heart and are happy to have found a home in Des Moines.

Heidi Kramer
Development & Project Coordinator 
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Heidi joined the team in March of 2014, prior she was employed by the Johnston Community School District for over 10 years. She is actively involved in her church, is a volunteer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and enjoys running. Through her volunteer opportunities she has gained experience in non-profit fundraising and event planning. A graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Heidi is currently pursuing her Master of Public Administration Degree from Drake University.

Heidi and her husband Terry have three sons – Alex, Chase, and Drake.

   Cheri McDaniel
Executive Assistant & Project Associate
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Cheri McDaniel has been with the Ray Center since December 2005. Prior to joining our team she worked as a secretary for an Iowa school district.

Cheri lives in Urbandale with her husband Howard and their mini dachshunds, Holly and Audrey. She is the mother of two-Gregory of Des Moines and Bethany of Urbandale. Cheri and Howard enjoy spending time with their family and keep busy with their granddaughter, Mikayla.


                                ‌Stephanie Oppel
Associate Director, Applied Research and National Programs
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 A native Iowan, Stephanie grew up in Ankeny. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and then went on to earn a Master of Public Administration Degree from Drake University, where she was inducted into the Pi Alpha Alpha Honorary Society for Public Affairs and Administration.  Before joining The Ray Center, Stephanie worked at Des Moines Area Community College on behalf of all Iowa community colleges and served Iowans in a disaster recovery role with FEMA. Stephanie and her husband, Sam, live in Norwalk, Iowa with their five children.


‌‌‌ ‌Hilary Ortmann
Assistant Director, Events
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Hilary joined the team in September of 2014. Born and raised in Iowa, she earned her B.A. in Media Studies with a Minor in Sales from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. Following college, she transitioned to Des Moines where she got her start in the nonprofit industry organizing and implementing events with local chambers of commerce. Hilary brings previous experience with a wide variety of professional development, networking and community events to The Ray Center team.

Hilary married her husband Kyle in June 2014 and they reside in Grimes.


Team ‌Georgia Sheriff
Assistant Director, Programs
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Georgia joined the team in September 2012 after serving as Director of Drake University Head Start for 15 years. Her prior experience included positions with the Iowa Department of Education and Indiana University. Hercareer has focused on early childhood general and special education with an emphasis on full inclusion, community development, and strategic planning. Georgia earned her doctorate in special education from Indiana University-Bloomington. She is actively involved in the community and volunteers with the Urbandale Food Pantry and helps coordinate the Women’s Career Clothing Closet, a no-cost boutique for women returning to or in the workforce.

Georgia lives in Urbandale with her husband, Rick. They have two adult children, Chris and Colleen.


Amy Smit
Associate Director, Administration and Communications
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An Iowa native, Amy returned to Iowa in 2004 after living throughout the United States while her husband served as a meteorologist in the US Air Force. She earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota and is a certified character development specialist through the Josephson Institute of Ethics. Amy gained professional experience in both the political and non-profit fields before joining the team in January, 2004.

She lives in Urbandale with her husband, Chad, and their children, Noah and Avery.



Deb Taylor
Administrative Assistant
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Debra Taylor joined The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center team in March of 2016.  Prior e‌xperience includes administrative assistant for the Marketing & Institutional Advancement director and Education Foundation Office at Southwestern Community College and serving as an assistant to the bureau chief at the Iowa Department of Education within The Division of Community Colleges. 

Debra and her husband reside in Grimes and still own their acreage home in Creston Iowa.  She is the mother of three grown children Cayla, Cyle, and Casey.  She loves children and enjoys spending time with her granddaughter Althea.

Link to Upcoming Classes
Your Character Minute
January 18, 2018
January 11, 2018
December 28, 2017