The Early Years
Kathy was born Kathleen Marie Rafferty in Ludlow, Massachusetts on March 16, 1957, and spent her first three years with loving parents, Tom and Marion Rafferty, in Proctor, Vermont. When she was three, her father died suddenly after suffering an aneurism while driving, and at four, her mother succumbed to a long battle with cancer. She and her eight year-old brother Bill were uprooted and replanted in the Minneapolis suburbs when they were adopted by her uncle, Norb Minder, and his wife Gladys.
Gladys owned and ran a printing business, Branham Printing, before meeting Norb in 1947. Norb, who spent World War II as a link trainer after entering the Army Aircorps under a program for gifted students, was traveling across the country after being discharged, but settled in Minneapolis when he met Gladys. Norb and Gladys were married, and Norb joined Gladys in running the printing business. Childless and in their early 40s in 1961, Norb and Gladys started a new life for Kathy and Bill, changing Kathy’s name to “Kathleen Marie Minder,” and eventually settling in Marine on St. Croix.
Kathy grew up exploring the woodlands and streams along the St. Croix River and playing “pioneer” with neighbor kids. She developed a deep appreciation for nature and open space, and with Norb’s parade of houseboats and pontoon boats, for spending lazy afternoons on the river.
Coming into her own
But Norb and Gladys were also busy with their business, and Bill and Kathy were assigned chores to help with the home life. As she grew older and particularly in her teens, Kathy spent weekend afternoons at Branham Printing on Nicollet Avenue helping with the business, her aptitude for finance causing Norb and Gladys to assign many of the bookkeeping chores to Kathy.
Academically, Kathy was a superstar. In high school she won multiple state titles in debate and graduated Valedictorian from Stillwater High School in 1975.
With Depression-era parents who prized self-sufficiency, Ivy League colleges were not an option for Kathy, who instead paid her own way at the University of Minnesota. She graduated in three years at the top of her class and easily obtained admission to the University of Minnesota Law School. Her exceptional writing gained her a spot on The Minnesota Law Review, where she met Tom Martin, a fellow law student with a degree from the University in Geological Engineering. Kathy and Tom became Co-Managing Editors of the Law Review, and were married a year after their 1981 graduation.
Becoming a Business Women
Kathy started her legal career in 1981 at Popham, Haik, Schnobrich, Kaufman & Doty; Tom at Dorsey & Whitney. The 1980s were not easy times for women in law firms, but Kathy was not easily cowed, and importantly, she found a mentor, Wayne Popham, who not only had three daughters roughly Kathy’s age, but shared Kathy’s fiscal conservatism with a humanist approach to social issues. Wayne became not only a prized mentor, but a lifelong friend.
Kathy and Tom spent their first eight years of marriage in a townhome in Bloomington, but after starting their family with Matthew (1984), and as Bloomington development closed in, searched for the more rural setting that they both loved. In 1986, they found 7.5 acres in Medina that they purchased, and on which they built their current home in 1989. A second boy, Andy, followed in 1992. Although both Tom and Kathy were products of public schools and intended that their children would be the same, busing distances in Medina caused them to place both boys at The Blake School, and Kathy would eventually become not only the Kindergarten room parent for Andy, but a member of the Blake Board of Trustees when Andy was in High School.
With a background in debate and public speaking, Kathy started her career in litigation, often helping Wayne with pleadings and briefs. But with a growing family, Kathy decided that the travel requirements for a litigator were too disruptive, and instead eventually focused on commercial real estate. Kathy was made a partner at Popham Haik in 1986 and advanced steadily until being considered for the position of firm chair in 1995. At the same time, Kathy became active in the American Bar Association, advancing through the ranks and becoming Secretary, Vice Chair and in 2007 Chair (nationally) of the American Bar Association Section of Real Property, Trust, and Estate Law.
Generational changes in leadership at Popham Haik moved the firm away from the egalitarian culture championed by Wayne Popham, causing Kathy, together with Mike Gilliland and Bruce Malkerson, to make the painful decision to leave the firm and start their own boutique real estate law firm, Malkerson Gilliland Martin LLP (now Malkerson Gunn Martin LLP), in 1996. Kathy’s organizational skills, background in small business, and collaborative manner, made her the natural choice for managing partner, a position she still holds 23 years later.
Family and the Future
Busy raising their boys and with heavy work schedules, the 1990s and 2000s were hectic times for Tom and Kathy. Matthew, who became Blake Class President, graduated from Dartmouth in 2006, and from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2010, accepting a position at Faegre & Benson, but resigning two years later to pursue entrepreneurship and his love for technology. He is now CEO of a venture backed start-up in California. Andy, who was active in theater and Ultimate Frisbee at Blake, graduated from Whitman College in 2015, accepted a position as an Account Executive with Payscale in Seattle immediately after graduation, and now works as a programmer and web page consultant.
With their boys in Seattle and San Francisco, Kathy had more time to devote to community service, accepting a position on the Medina planning commission in 2010 and the City Council in 2013. Tom applied his love for the outdoors and gardening to become Chair of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Foundation in 2014.
Tom and Kathy share a love for gardening, cooking and wine, and travel. They spend time visiting their son Andy in Seattle, and son Matthew, his wife Ashley, and their dog Jake, in San Francisco.
Kathy and Bob Mitchell had planned that Kathy would run to succeed Bob as Mayor in 2020. After Bob’s untimely and tragic death, Kathy has accelerated her plans and is rearranging her work and retirement schedule so she has more time to devote to the position if elected mayor.