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.
Peter Bode is the executive assistant to the executive director of Region Nine. He recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Gustavus Adolphus College, minoring in Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies. He has worked with several presidential and regional political campaigns since 2012, and managed a successful state legislative campaign in 2016. Peter values working towards the betterment of communities’ democratic infrastructure, social justice systems, and equitable human development.
Corree Johnson joined Region Nine in August of 2018 as a communications specialist. With her expertise in marketing, social media, and communications, she will work to further increase Region Nine’s brand presence and impact throughout the region.
Originally from rural Southeastern Minnesota, Corree is passionate about educating rural communities and entrepreneurs on marketing and communication strategies. Corree completed her Bachelor of Science in Marketing Communications at Bemidji State University, and holds multiple certifications relating to social marketing.
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.
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.
Kathryn Taylor Hansing-McDonald joined Region Nine in June 2018 as a regional planner. Kate has experience in both the private and public sector of urban planning. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Urban Studies and a Master’s of Arts in Urban Planning from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Kristian Braekkan joined Region Nine in February 2018. His work relates to resource development, economic development, and industrial projects.
Kristian completed his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech in 2010. His research on industrial relations spans 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.
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.
Sam Smith joined Region Nine in March 2018 to help support medical and pharmaceutical manufacturers in the area and identify innovative ways to expand these high-growth, high-wage industries.
Smith has worked in rural business development and nonprofit leadership throughout southern Minnesota since 2010 after a five-year career as an award-winning newspaper reporter. He has supported growth at organizations as large as Mayo Clinic and as small as a corner grocery store. Throughout, his interests have focused on the intersection of entrepreneurship and sustainable development. He holds a B.A. in English, pre-medicine from University of Illinois and an M.S. in journalism from the same.