Julie Stewart wants to give back to the community where she grew up.

Stewart grew up in Altoona and graduated from Southeast Polk High School. It’s that lifelong connection to her hometown and the region, and her ability to help them grow, that motivates her.

“I can see I’m making a difference and I’m helping others and I’m helping our community grow,” she said. 
Stewart, who’s worked at Prairie Meadows for 32 years, credits her parents for instilling in her the work ethic she says is needed to make a difference.

“I was raised in a family that always gave back,” she said. “My mom and dad always gave back, so I learned that at a very young age. Volunteering, it’s just what you do, so I learned to volunteer, give back and get involved. It’s my responsibility to make this community better. When you’re raised in a family that that’s just what you do, then it becomes part of who you are.”

It’s those values that Stewart says she carried with her into her job and the decisions she makes about who to help with the $30 million Prairie Meadows gives back to the community each year.

“It’s important for me to live a life that follows my values,” she said. “I feel personal responsibility for the dollars that we give out here at Prairie Meadows. I feel it’s my due diligence to make sure everybody has an opportunity to [get] these dollars. I spend a tremendous amount of time making sure it’s equally divided. It is important for me to never show favoritism. I take a lot of time to make sure everyone gets their fair share.

“If you keep your integrity and your values at the core of who you are, it’s easy to do,” Stewart said. “I’m doing what I want to do with my life because I know I’m making a difference for a lot of people.”

Stewart had this advice for young women who want to be leaders: “They need to make sure they keep very clear what the vision is that they want to do with their life. Why do they want to lead? What do they want to accomplish? If they keep that vision clear, it gives them a path to what they’re doing.”

Education Bachelor’s degree in business, Stephens College, Columbia, Mo.
Hometown Altoona
Family Married, two sons, one daughter
Age 54
Hobbies Golfing, gardening, reading, knitting and cooking

“Be yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Don’t let others define who they think you should be.”

Three areas of influence

  1. She helps allocate Prairie Meadows’ community donations in areas of arts, economic development and education to make Central Iowa as vibrant as possible.
  2. She leads the Eastern Polk Innovation Collaboration to promote economic development in eastern Polk County.
  3. She serves as vice president of Dollars for Scholars for Southeast Polk High School, where she went to school.