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Six new members join MHP board: Chris Coleman, Alisha Gehlert, Dr. Brittany Lewis, Kayla Schuchman, Cecile Bedor, and Julia Nelmark

At its December meeting, the Minnesota Housing Partnership’s Board of Directors honored five departing members and welcomed six newcomers. The new members of the board are Chris Coleman, Kayla Schuchman, Cecile Bedor, Dr. Brittany Lewis, Alisha Gehlert, and Julia Nelmark.

“These are experts in affordable housing and bring perspective from many angles: research, policy, real estate, indigenous lands, and finance. MHP has a strong future ahead with these new board members,” MHP Executive Director Anne Mavity said.

The new members join the board as MHP enters the second year of its strategic plan. 

Leaving the board were Skip Duchesneau, Pam Wheelock, Deidre Schmidt, Jay Jensen, and Jamie Thelen. 

Anne Mavity presents former board members Jay Jensen, Jamie Thelen, and Skip Duchesneau with housing art as appreciation for their service.

“We’re grateful to Skip, Pam, Diedre, Jay, and Jamie for their many years of dedicated leadership on MHP’s board, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to learn from each of them,” Mavity said. “These leaders have committed their careers to advancing affordable housing and community development. We cannot thank them enough for the insights and expertise that have made MHP a stronger organization. They have helped us move toward a Minnesota where everyone has a safe, affordable home.”

New Board Member Bios

Kayla Schuchman, Director of Housing, Planning and Economic Development, City of St. Paul. Schuchman spent nine years implementing affordable housing policy through successive roles at Minnesota Housing, the state’s affordable housing agency. Previously, she was a project manager for the St. Paul-based affordable housing developer CommonBond Communities, where she structured deals and built community support to develop affordable multifamily projects. She also serves as co-chair of the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers Housing Committee, a regional association of community development organizations; and as a board member for Urban Homeworks, a nonprofit that transforms vacant properties into housing. Schuchman is a certified housing development finance professional through the National Development Council. She has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Macalester College, and a master’s degree in public policy with a concentration in economic and community development from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Cecile Bedor joined the CommonBond team as Executive Vice President of Real Estate in April 2018. She is responsible for all aspects of the purchase and development of real estate; property asset management to ensure financial sustainability and reporting to project funders and investors.  Cecile previously served as the Executive Vice President of GREATER MSP, where she began in 2014. Prior to that, she served for eight years as the City of Saint Paul’s Director of Planning and Economic Development (PED). During that time, she was also the Executive Director of the City’s Housing & Redevelopment Authority. Prior to joining the City, she was the Director of Partnerships and Development for the Minneapolis Public Library, overseeing the system’s marketing and communications; community library capital projects; and community partnerships. She previously held positions with the National Equity Fund, the Metropolitan Council, and Aeon.  Through Board and volunteer service, she’s supported various organizations, including the Itasca Project, the American Red Cross – MN, Wilderness Inquiry, Hope Community, Lambda Alpha, Saint Paul College, and others. She has two adult children and lives in south Minneapolis.

Chris Coleman joined Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity as President & CEO in June 2018 after serving as Mayor of St. Paul for twelve years. As Mayor, Chris was a champion for economic development, education, housing, and racial equity. From 2013 to 2014, Chris was the President of the National League of Cities, a bi-partisan coalition of leaders from across the country. Prior to his election as Mayor, Chris was an investment advisor for RBC and he served for six years on the St. Paul City Council. Chris was born and raised in St. Paul and earned bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Minnesota. Chris lives on St. Paul's West Side where he and his wife, Connie, raised their two children, Molly and Aidan.

Alisha Gehlert is the Director of Economic Development and Planning for Red Lake Nation. She is a graduate of Bemidji State University and has an MBA in American Indian Entrepreneurship from Gonzaga University. Alisha is a proud member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.  While in her Master's program Alisha began her professional career with the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians' Family and Children Services (FCS). While with FCS Alisha was exposed to issues surrounding family reunification, youth homelessness, and the importance of delivering social services that meet people where they are at.  After almost 2 years with FCS, Alisha was hired as the Director of Economic Development and Planning for the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. In her current capacity she believes there is opportunity for economic development through housing, healthcare, and education; which are three core pieces to every individual’s wellbeing.  Alisha has had the opportunity to work with a group of core partners on the Minneapolis Navigation Center and an Urban Tribal Affordable Housing Development.

Dr. Brittany Lewis is a well-respected community engaged qualitative scholar, thought leader, author, and professor known for bringing those most often locked out of local decision-making processes to the action research table for close to 10 years. Dr. Lewis is the Founder and CEO of Research in Action, an urban research consulting firm, and is currently a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota. Formerly, Dr. Lewis was a Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank Scholar in Residence and Visiting Assistant Professor at Macalester College in Political Science and American Studies. Dr. Lewis is the Principal Investigator of the Illusion of Choice: Evictions and Profit in North Minneapolis report and the Co-Principal Investigator on the recently published report entitled: The Diversity of Gentrification: Multiple Forms of Gentrification in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Dr. Lewis’s research was used in a Minnesota Supreme Court to expand rights for tenants facing evictions, as direct testimony at the Minnesota State Legislature, and to inform the human services and public safety impact agenda within Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis. Dr. Lewis has consulted with philanthropic partners such as the Pohlad and Graves Foundation who refer directly to Dr. Lewis’s research as they develop their own scope of work and strategic plans of action.

Julia Nelmark was named MMCDC’s president in August 2018, after developing and leading the company’s New Markets Tax Credit Financing division since their first allocation. She led the deployment of $544 million of NMTC allocation across Minnesota and surrounding states, for dozens of projects ranging from $250,000 to $20 million. Originally from Illinois, Ms. Nelmark received her bachelor’s degree from Benedictine University, where she was Accounting Major of the Year. She received her CPA certification and went on to receive a masters of management degree from Kellogg Graduate School of Business at Northwestern University. She held a number of accounting, finance and analyst positions for Amoco Corp. and subsidiaries, and managed the budgeting – strategic planning area for Advance Transformer Company before joining MMCDC. She and her husband own an interest in the family dairy farm near Wolf Lake, Minnesota.