Nicole Griensewic Mickelson’s passion for public service is reflected in Region Nine’s accomplishments, including national innovation awards for transportation projects, communications and marketing, climate change, and flood mitigation. As executive director, Griensewic Mickelson has made it a priority to foster collaboration and engagement by sharing Region Nine’s story both regionally and globally. At the third Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship tour, Griensewic Mickelson was asked to present to leaders from 28 countries, highlighting efforts and best practices from Region Nine.
Griensewic Mickelson is an active board and committee member for multiple organizations throughout Minnesota. Currently, Griensewic Mickelson serves as president of the Greater Minnesota Partnership, and is an executive committee member for the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies, where she serves as chair of the Governance Committee. Griensewic Mickelson also serves as secretary of Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota’s Governing Board of Directors and as chair of their Joint Governance Committee and serves as an advisory board member for South Central College’s Center for Agriculture. Lastly, she serves on the executive committee for the Minnesota Medical Manufacturing Partnership, as part of the EDA’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities Program.
Griensewic Mickelson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Elizabeth Kearney Woman’s Leadership Institute. She received the 2017 Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Her professional background includes extensive private sector and non-profit leadership experience.
Angie Schimek joined Region Nine as executive assistant to the executive director in July 2017. She is a longtime Mankato area resident who spent the last six years helping her partner, Nathan, build a computer service and repair business from the ground up. Prior to her time at Tech Connect Plus, Angie spent three and a half years at Gopher Sport in Owatonna as a category manager and worked in marketing for several years at Taylor Corporation in North Mankato.
Ashley Aukes is a Certified Public Communicator and has served as the communications specialist for Region Nine Development Commission since 2013. Within those four years, she has used her expertise in marketing, social media and design to enhance Region Nine’s brand presence. Through her communications work, Region Nine received the National Association of Development Organizations 2015 Innovation Award for Telling the Regional Government Story Differently.
Aukes is passionate about helping rural communities and entrepreneurs improve their marketing and communications. She has co-founded two Social Media Breakfast chapters in southern Minnesota and has also presented at numerous state and national conferences. Aukes serves on the board for the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators.
For the past twelve years, LuAnn Vanderwerf has worked for Region Nine Development Commission as the organization’s finance director. Vanderwerf has administrated the Region Nine’s Revolving Loan Funds for the last nine years.
Vanderwerf enjoys seeing the new ideas that come through the loan funds and watching them take shape and become businesses. She appreciates being a part of an organization that helps communities grow through new businesses, added jobs, and needed services.
Vanderwerf was raised in the New Ulm area and attended St. Cloud State University and Mankato State University where she earned a degree in accounting. Prior to Region Nine, Vanderwerf worked in the private sector for MCG and Parker Hannifin in New Ulm. She also served as the corporate credit manager for Norwood in Sleepy Eye. She currently lives in New Ulm with her husband of 37 years.
Linda Wallace is the Senior Financial Accountant/RLF Assistant at Region Nine Development Commission. Wallace graduated from Minnesota State University Mankato, Mankato, with a Bachelor of Science in accounting and business administration along with a minor in business law. She enjoys doing Region Nine’s annual audit and financial reports for the grant programs.
Danielle Walchuk has worked for Region Nine Development Commission since November 2012. She is involved and experienced in comprehensive planning, hazard mitigation planning, transportation and economic development planning efforts. She also possesses advanced knowledge and working experience in GIS (Geographical Information Systems). Danielle holds Bachelor degrees in Geography and Urban and Regional Studies, a Master’s degree in Geography, and a Professional Certificate in Urban Planning and Geographic Information Science from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Jesse Womack graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2016, where he earned a B.A. in environmental studies with an emphasis on social science approaches to environmentalism, including political science and economics. Starting in August of the same year, he served as an Americorps VISTA helping Region Nine better serve local food businesses in our nine counties, which included interviews and surveys of area stakeholders and the creation of a peer-to-peer network for local food farms. With his academic background and work experience on conventional and CSA style organic farms Jesse serves as our Agriculture and Economic Resiliency Specialist.
Jessica O’Brien is community engagement manager at Region Nine. Her primary role is to coordinate community engagement sessions, planning activities and resource development within the region. Jessica has over 18 years of experience in public service initiatives, development of cross-sector teams and diverse partnerships, non-profit leadership, and project design and implementation. She works with state and federal grants, community convening and education, cross-cultural communications, and community development projects. Jessica previously served for five years as the Associate Director for Mankato Refugee Services at the Minnesota Council of Churches.
José William Castellanos joined Region Nine in February 2018 as a community development planner. His primary role with the organization is to assist in developing, planning, researching, implementing and managing diverse programs and provide grant writing assistance for local units of government and others applying to state and federal programs.
José is passionate about his work, curious to find solutions for locally identified issues, and is greatly motivated by working on a diverse portfolio. He has led local, regional, national, and international public health, health promotion and prevention initiatives to improve access to health care services. He has planned, designed, implemented and evaluated multiple award-winning community-based participatory research projects and initiatives and was recognized by the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health with the 2006 Community Partner Star Award. José holds a M.D. degree from the National University of Colombia and earned a Ph.D. degree from the University of Minnesota.
Kristian Braekkan joined Region Nine as a senior regional planner in February 2018. His work relates to resource development, economic development, and coordinating community engagement activities.
Kristian taught and conducted research at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN from 2010-2018, following the completion of his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech. His research on industrial relations investigated employment conditions and labor relations and spanned a wide variety of contexts, such as steel, coal, health care, manufacturing, and service industries. He has presented and published his research domestically and internationally. Kristian enjoys engaging with stakeholders on issues of changing employment, economic and demographic conditions.
Sam Parker specializes in transportation planning services in the area’s nine counties and 72 cities. He oversees Region Nine Development Commission’s partnership with MnDOT by connecting local stakeholders to regional and statewide transportation programs, and serves as lead facilitator for MnDOT-sponsored Safe Routes to School plans in the planning area. Parker has extensive experience assisting rural communities with comprehensive planning, GIS mapping services, updating city zoning ordinances, and securing state and federal grants. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Community and Regional Planning from Iowa State University and a Master’s of Public Administration from Drake University.
The draft of the Madelia Comprehensive Plan is ready for public review. The process started in January 2017 with an online community survey, a series of community engagement events and city council meetings. The draft document represents the culmination of all the public input and community effort. Citizens are encouraged to review the document by […]