Board of Directors

SMRLS is governed by a dedicated Board of Directors comprised of attorneys, business leaders and community members all committed to serving the mission of equal justice.

Matthew Benda, Esq.

Board President

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Board President
Albert Lea attorney Matthew Benda was elected President of the SMRLS’ Board of Directors in March 2018. Mr. Benda succeeds Gail Olson as Board President, and member Brett Olander is the new First Vice-President of the Board.
 
Mr. Benda, partner at Peterson, Kolker, Haedt & Benda. Ltd., has served as a SMRLS volunteer attorney for more than 20 years and was appointed to the Board in 2002 by the Freeborn County Bar Association. In 2011, Mr. Benda was named one of Minnesota Lawyer's Attorneys of the Year in recognition of his work with watershed districts and local businesses.
 
Mr. Benda’s primary areas of practice are agricultural law, business planning and transactions and real estate. Added Benda, “The passion demonstrated by SMRLS’ attorneys and staff dramatically improves people’s daily lives. I am honored to be part of such a first-class organization.” 

Gail Olson, Esq.

Board Member

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Board Member

Gail Olson is the formed SMRLS Board President and is retired from the General Counsel at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

J. Scott Braden, Esq.
Law Offices of J. Scott Braden

William M. Mahlum, Esq.
Mahlum & Associates

Barbara F. L. Penn, Esq.
Community Member

Stephen F. Witort, Esq.
3M Federal Government Affairs

Treasurer

Thomas Hatch is the Assistant County Attorney at the Office of the Ramsey County Attorney.

Abdi Sabrie

Community Member

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Community Member

Abdi Sabrie is an Academic Advisor at South Central College, was Mankato School Board’s first elected person of color, is a 2010 Blandin Leadership Alumni, and was appointed by Governor Dayton to the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB). Mr. Abdi has a B.A. in International Relations and Political Science and is currently pursuing an M.S. in Education Leadership.

Mr. Abdi is a member of several organizations, including the Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA), the Educational Opportunity Association (EOA), the Minnesota Cultural Agility Collaborative, and the Minnesota TRIO Association. Mr. Abdi is a co-founder/member of Minnesota African Heritage School Board Directors (MAHSBD). Mr. Abdi also is the co-founder and former Director of the African Family and Education Center (AFEC), a nonprofit that serves African Immigrant families in Greater Mankato in pursuing educational equity. Past positions also include, the co-founder and former member of the board of the Mankato Islamic Center, former Commissioner for the Region Nine Development Commission on behalf of minorities, former member of the Mankato Public Safety Advisory Board, and former member of the Back-pack Program Advisory Committee.

Mr. Abdi currently serves on the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) Board, serves on the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Advisory Board, and serves on the Blue Earth County Child Protection Advisory Board. He is a recipient of the 2012 National Jefferson Award “A Nobel Prize for Public Service.” Most recently, Mr. Abdi was named a 2018 Bush Foundation Fellow.

Additional Members

Ali Abdullahi
Community Member

Kathy Bartz
Community Member

Jan Marie Lundgren
Community Member

Sonja Miller
Community Member 

Suyapa Miranda
Community Member

Elizabeth Webster
Community Member

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