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Why I Moved Back to DSM From California

Aaron Hepker DSM USA

February 15, 2018

I’m one of those people: the type that had to “escape” Iowa after living here most of my life. After a year of fun and sun in California, I decided I wanted to move back to Greater Des Moines (DSM).

As a native of Cedar Rapids, I moved to DSM in the spring of 2014 and was blown away by the city. The restaurants and barslive music venues, places to grab a beer with friends, parks and trails to explore… DSM wasn’t the same city I’d visited growing up. I knew I was home.

California move

I spent two-and-a-half years in DSM before my career in local news took me to the West Coast. Sacramento was a great place to live: the weather was beautiful, San Francisco and Lake Tahoe were nearby and I was having the time of my life — personally and professionally. 

Hanging on the wall in my office next to four TV monitors was an illustration of the Iowa State Capitol; it had been decorated with press passes, old concert tickets, race bibs and pictures to remind me of my time in DSM. It seemed like every day I’d see a tweet about DSM making a list of top places to live and work. On Facebook, I’d see friends checking in at Downtown’s newest bar or restaurant. Pictures from Hinterland80/35, the Des Moines Arts Festival® and the Downtown Farmers’ Market flooded my Instagram feed over the summer. I was frequently reminded of the home I’d left behind.

Appreciating DSM from afar

It took moving 1,500 miles away for me to fully appreciate all of the things DSM has to offer. In the year I lived in California, I found myself back in DSM frequently and was always excited when 801 Grand or the Financial Center came in to view as my flight approached Des Moines International Airport. Every time I’d visit, my friends would show me the latest store or cafe to open since the last time I’d been in town. The city always had something new to experience.

I found more DSM fans in the last place I expected: my own newsroom, where half the staff envisioned Iowa as barns and farmland. One of my co-workers has family in Perry and we often discussed our opinion of Casey’s Pizza (I’m pro, he’s con). Another colleague, who also came to Sacramento via DSM, and I joked about our experiences people watching at the Iowa State Fair. One of our news anchors covered the Iowa Caucuses in 2016, and we bonded over our love of Carl’s Place in Sherman Hill and Jethro’s BBQ. Even the opening of the Court Avenue Hy-Vee became a hot topic in my newsroom and led to us doing a story about the revival of downtown Sacramento.

DSM calling

A reality of working in TV news is that often you have to move to advance your career. That’s what happened with me; if I wanted to move up, I had to move on. That being said, I’d always planned on returning to DSM someday. I wanted to plant my roots in a community where I hope to one day raise a family.

Someday came sooner than I’d anticipated: I missed DSM.

Why wouldn’t I want to come back? For one thing, “Iowa Nice” really is a phenomenon and not just a term used to market our state. People are incredibly kind and helpful; they’re always willing to help a neighbor or stranger when it’s needed. There’s a sense of community that you wouldn’t expect to find in a city the size of DSM. We’re proud of who we are and where we’re from.

When I made the decision to move back to the Midwest, my friends in California commonly asked, “Are you really sure you want to go back to DSM?”

My answer? Without a doubt.

Are you interested in moving to Greater Des Moines (DSM)? Click to request a Relocation Packet. Or, kickstart your career by checking out the DSM USA Career Center. It has over 10,000 jobs listed!