Kathy Martin was elected mayor of Medina, Minnesota on November 6, 2018 with a two-thirds majority vote from city residents winning both precincts. Below is her biographical background as originally written and published by her husband, Tom Martin, on Kathy’s website in the fall of 2018. The story has been edited and updated for publication in LocalTies.
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 years old, her father died suddenly after suffering an aneurysm 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 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 air corps under a program for gifted students, was traveling across the country after being discharged. He 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 spaces, Norb’s parade of houseboats and pontoon boats, and lazy afternoons on the river.
Coming into Her Own
Because Norb and Gladys were busy with their business, Bill and Kathy were assigned chores to help with home life. As she grew older, particularly in her teens, Kathy spent weekend afternoons at Branham Printing on Nicollet Avenue helping with the business. Due to her aptitude for finance, Kathy was assigned many of the bookkeeping chores.
Kathy excelled academically. In high school she won multiple state titles in debate and graduated as valedictorian from Stillwater High School in 1975. With Depression-era parents who prized self-sufficiency, Ivy League colleges were not an option for Kathy; instead she paid her own way at the University of Minnesota. Kathy graduated in three years at the top of her class and gained admission to the University of Minnesota Law School. Her writing ability earned 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.
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 fortunately found a mentor in Wayne Popham. Not only did Wayne have three daughters roughly Kathy’s age, he also shared Kathy’s fiscal conservatism with a humanist approach to social issues. Wayne became both a prized mentor and lifelong friend.
Kathy and Tom spent their first eight years of marriage in a townhome in Bloomington. After starting their family with Matthew in 1984, they searched for a more rural setting. In 1986, they purchased 7.5 acres in Medina on which they built their current home in 1989. Their second boy, Andy, followed in 1992. Although Tom and Kathy were products of public schools and intended the same for their children, busing distances in Medina caused them to place both boys at The Blake School. 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. Due to their growing family, Kathy decided the travel requirements as a litigator were too disruptive and decided to instead focus on commercial real estate. Kathy was made a partner at Popham Haik in 1986, advancing steadily until obtaining the position of firm chair in 1995. At the same time, Kathy became active in the American Bar Association, advancing through the ranks as 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 Home Life
Busy raising their boys and with heavy work schedules, the 1990s and 2000s were hectic times for Tom and Kathy. Matthew, who became Blake’s class president, graduated from Dartmouth in 2006 and from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2010, accepting a position at Faegre & Benson. He resigned two years later to pursue entrepreneurship and his love for technology — he is now CEO of a venture backed startup 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 website 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.
The Future for Medina
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’s plans were accelerated. As mayor, she looks forward to devoting her time serving the residents of Medina in the years to come. Kathy hopes to heavily focus on inspiring and organizing the residents to become more engaged in civic projects and community-based leadership initiatives.