Peterson Kolker Haedt & Benda: Celebrating a 100-Year Tradition of Service

In 2023, Peterson, Kolker, Haedt and Benda, LTD (PKH&B) is celebrating a tradition of legal excellence that began a century ago. Generations of business owners, farmers and families in Southern Minnesota have relied upon the attorneys at PKH&B to see them through difficult times, with practical, caring guidance. With an approach founded on “finding solutions one client at a time,” the firm endures as a trusted source of legal services and a community mainstay that fosters the values locals hold dear.

PKH&B is home to an experienced and collaborative group of attorneys who bring varying perspectives to the legal solutions they craft. Through its network of relationships with practice-specific law firms, vendors and experts, PKH&B provides large-firm support that is both local and affordable.

Shareholder Stephanie A. Haedt is the firm’s managing attorney and a native of the region who has practiced law since 2003. Her practice centers on employment law, family law, corporate/business law and civil litigation. A leader in her profession and community, Haedt has been recognized with numerous awards, including being named a Minnesota Lawyer Attorney of the Year, Top Women Attorney in Minnesota, and Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year.

“We pride ourselves on representing multiple generations of businesses, families and farm operations,” she says. “The bottom line is we take care of people. A lot of these are third-generation farmers and business owners. They may reach out because they are dealing with an employment situation, and also have a parent who needs nursing home care or a child who is contemplating divorce or marriage. Within our firm, we all have different strengths, and our goal is to have the client taken care of and resolve their unique situation. Sometimes that means working with an outside firm that has a specialty or putting a client in the right hands to help resolve their situation, like a local banker or accountant.”

We look forward to taking care of people and being a regional hub for legal services for another 100 years.

Shareholder Matthew L. Benda brings nearly three decades of experience to his general business practice. The son of local farmers, he understands first-hand the unique needs of farmers with regard to business and legacy planning. He has twice been named one of Minnesota Lawyer’s Attorneys of the Year and previously served as chair of the MSBA Agricultural Law Section Council. A staunch community advocate, he is active in local politics and gives service to a number of worthy organizations.

Benda explains that in their relationship-driven practice, he and his colleagues strive to understand each client’s circumstances, priorities and budget. “As a solution-based firm, we help people make informed personal or business decisions. When a client comes in the door, we don’t just say we are going to win. A win for somebody could get them a moral victory in court, but end in financial ruin. We want to help them make decisions with eyes wide open. We empower our clients to understand timelines and costs, so they can make the tough decisions about whether to continue forward or find a strategic exit.”


Preserving the Past; Preparing for the Future

At this century milestone, PKH&B is both honoring its roots and looking ahead to how it will serve the families of the future. The firm’s choice to purchase and renovate the iconic Elks Lodge in Albert Lea reflects its vision of community enrichment, as the building is a place where just about everyone in the community has many happy associations. It has been home to the firm since late 2020, and the attorneys hope that clients feel a sense of comfort and welcome when they walk through the doors.

“There is a lot of history here, and we pay tribute to that for the community,” Haedt says. “For many years, most community events were held here. There were weddings and various organization meetings — even the Bar Association used to meet in this building.”

During the renovation, the firm made efforts to preserve much of the original character of the building, including the Elks tiled logo in the entry way, the original wood beams, and the bar and dance floor. The conference rooms retain the lodge’s original signage and room names.

“The fireplace is original, although we had to relocate it,” Haedt says. “It was donated by a local businessman, so it has a special place here. We also have a bulletin board in the lobby, and clients bring pictures from the building. Matt and his wife Heather have a picture from their wedding reception which was held at the Elks. We hope people feel at home in our office, since they are often visiting during difficult life circumstances.”

There is a lot of history here, and we pay tribute to that for the community.

The firm’s relocation to the Elks Lodge was also an opportunity for expansion. Although the pandemic occurred just after the firm made the commitment to purchase the building, the venture went off smoothly and timing was ideal for upgrading the firm’s technology. Every attorney’s office and each conference room is equipped with cameras and tech to support video conferencing and court appearances.

Daniel L. Kolker is a firm shareholder with more than 23 years of practice experience, including 20 years in Albert Lea with the firm. Since relocating to Southern Minnesota from his home state of South Dakota, he has dedicated his practice to estate planning, probate and real estate. He spends his off time serving on various nonprofit community boards, following his children’s sports activities and fishing.

“The Elks Lodge was the place to be for many in the surrounding farm communities,” Kolker says. “It was the place where families came to eat on the weekend or for holiday meals. Unfortunately, the Elks fell on hard times and the building sat empty for 10 years. It was sad to drive by and see it that way after the building had such a vibrant impact on our community. We saw attempts being made by community leaders to develop the south side of town, and we talked long and hard about the size of the project and the impact it would have on the community. That was one of the most important factors that drove us to say, ‘Let’s do it!’”

The mental and physical health of workers also factored prominently in the firm’s 100-year makeover. The firm installed a wellness room with gym equipment, lockers and showers, as well as a quiet room for nursing mothers or anyone who needs an escape during a stressful day.

“We pride ourselves on taking care of our team and making this a great place to work,” Kolker says.

Standing: Tamara H. Holman, Corissa A. Schwarz, Matthew L. Benda, Eythan G. Frandle, Austin J. White, Daniel L. Kolker and Jenna M. Riggle. Seated: Stephanie A. Haedt, Jillian M. Hanson, Jeri R. Weiss, Kristin M. Vogelsang.

Shareholder Eythan G. Frandle provides legal services in the areas of long-term care planning, trust and estate planning, and probate and trust administration. After growing up on a family farm near Albert Lea, he has chosen the rural life for his own family, and enjoys working on his farmhouse, barn and acreage. Frandle serves as a clerk and election judge in his township, volunteers with his worship community and enjoys presenting on his areas of

“We have instituted a flexible work environment in the office too, where attorneys and staff can work at home two days a week or more, depending upon circumstances,” Frandle says. “This change has had a big positive effect on our team’s wellbeing. People can work from home or remote work from anywhere the connection is secure. As an office, we have developed a great work-life balance, which is something a lot of attorneys struggle with because of the constant pressure we are under. For me, the ability to work at home means I can be with my family more.”

With plenty of room to welcome more attorneys to their expanded offices and a robust practice made up of diverse and sophisticated legal work, PKH&B’s attorneys eagerly anticipate the future.
“Our 100-year tradition of serving people has created a pipeline of challenging and lucrative work and a positive client base to add new attorneys,” Benda says. “It’s why we have invested in our building and infrastructure. We don’t expect new attorneys to come in and build a client base. We already have the opportunities here for them.”

“Not many people can say they love what they do and the people they work with, but I think I can speak for everyone in saying that this is a great place to work,” Haedt adds. “We have a wonderful team of long-term employees who enjoy competitive wages, benefits and profit sharing, and whose contributions are valued. We look forward to taking care of people and being a regional hub for legal services for another 100 years.”

At a Glance

Kolker, Haedt & Benda, Ltd.
1811 Broadway Ave. S.E.
Albert Lea, MN 56007
(507) 373-6491

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