Staff Spotlight: Matt Unger

Here at DMARC, we’re all about making connections between people. As an interfaith organization, we bring a wide variety of people together to meet basic human needs for our community. We know that by coming together and building relationships with one another, we can accomplish great things. And that’s why we’d like you to get to know our staff on a more personal level.

This is the first in a series of staff spotlights of DMARC’s team. We thought we’d start with our new CEO, Matt Unger, so you can get to know him a little better.

Matt joined DMARC as CEO in July 2019, and recently completed a 6+ year stretch at the Food Bank of Iowa. Starting as Program Manager and finishing as Chief Operating Officer, he led the Food Bank to record distribution including an overall increase of more than 45% and record one month distribution of 1.5 million pounds. His leadership at the Food Bank also included the implementation of three new programs, a merger with the Food Bank of Southern Iowa, and oversight of the Food Bank’s warehouse remodel.

Prior to joining the non-profit sector, Matt spent more than a dozen years working in the world of political campaigns and management of state government. His political career spanned multiple Iowa Caucus campaigns, Iowa Gubernatorial campaigns, and a four year stint as Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor Patty Judge. He and Judge then partnered in a consulting firm, PJJ Solutions, where they focused not just on political campaigns, but business and organizational strategy as well as public policy.

Matt and his wife, Anita, have made their home in Beaverdale for the last 10 years.

What drew you to DMARC originally, and how has it changed since then?
I’ve been fortunate to have partnered with DMARC over the last several years while I was at the Food Bank of Iowa. Over that time, I’ve watched as DMARC has continued to increase the number of central Iowans accessing pantry service, has innovated the pantry model with pantry 2.0 and taken data collection and visualization to a new level to better show the impact of the work being done and the circumstances facing the clients we serve together.

What do you like most about working at DMARC?
This mission and the incredible staff that has been assembled to carry it out.

What is your proudest moment at DMARC?
It’s fairly early in my tenure. Just over a month in, I would have to say being entrusted to take the reins from Sarai Rice, who has been a terrific leader for DMARC over the last 11 years. She leaves enormous shoes to fill, but along with the team here, I know we’ll make her proud.

Do you have any hidden talents?
In addition to trivia, I participate annually in the Iowa State Fair Whistling contest. I’ve been doing this about five years now and my best finish is 3rd place. Like the Cubs for so many years, my annual theme has been “we’ll win it all next year!”

Before working at DMARC, what’s the most interesting job you’ve ever had?
Without a doubt it was the four years in state government as Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor Patty Judge. No two days the same over four years. And the collaborative work done with the historic flooding and tornado disasters of 2008 – from response to recovery – is probably the highlight of my career.

Where is your favorite place in the world to be?
Back home in Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. So many memories from growing up; and as a child the great lakes might as well have been oceans – I guess even as an adult they still feel that way!

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was very young, a WWF professional wrestler. As I got a little older that shifted to professional baseball player (I was pretty decent). Then in high school I was going to be a lawyer.

If you could use one famous movie line to describe yourself, what would it be?
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

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