Continuing mentorship of college students

County Attorney Edblad reflects on his internship 30 years ago in attorney’s office

Since being elected Isanti County Attorney in November 1994, Jeff Edblad has always been compelled to give back to college and law students through internship opportunities.

Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad prides himself on giving opportunities to students such as Mitch Nelson (right) by providing internship opportunities in the county attorney’s office. Photo by Rachel Kytonen
Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad prides himself on giving opportunities to students such as Mitch Nelson (right) by providing internship opportunities in the county attorney’s office. Photo by Rachel Kytonen

Edblad, who interned in the Isanti County Attorney’s Office in January 1983, was under the supervision of former Isanti County attorneys Greg Korstad and Scott Hersey, while he was a junior attending Gustavus Adolphus College.

Edblad’s current intern is wrapping up his final week and is also a junior attending Gustavus Adolphus College.

Mitch Nelson began his internship with the attorney’s office Jan. 7 and will soon be heading back to college as his winter break comes to an end.

Nelson, who is majoring in financial economics and geography, lived with his grandparents, Vern and Carol Weltsch, while  interning in the office.

“At the beginning of this year, I began thinking about law,” Nelson said. “I wasn’t really familiar with law, so I mentioned internship possibilities with my father and thought I could use this experience as a way to see what law is really about. This has really been an awesome experience and I’ve learned a lot.”

Edblad mentioned he has been friends with Nelson’s mother for 45 years, and met Nelson’s father during freshman orientation at Gustavus.

During Nelson’s internship he was introduced to all areas of law including court hearings, bail hearings, jury trials, juvenile delinquency hearings, child protection hearings, child support hearings, took a trip to the Legislature, attended the local law enforcement banquet, worked with the drug task force and worked with the mock trial team at Cambridge-Isanti High School.

Nelson also is accompanying Edblad this week for a presentation at the University of Minnesota Law School where Edblad is a visiting professor.

Edblad said he’s enjoyed Nelson’s time in the office.

“I really feel Mitch embraces the Gustavus motto of ‘making your life count,’” Edblad said. “In the time I’ve spent with Mitch in talking with him and discussing issues with him involving the legal process, criminal justice and fairness, I have no doubt he will be an individual who will make his life count whether it’s in law or some other career choice.”

Besides interning in the county attorney’s office, Edblad also interned for current Isanti County Judge James Dehn, who was in private practice at the time of the internship.

“While interning in Jim Dehn’s office, I got to see how the defense side of things work,” Edblad said. “Jim took me under his wings and spent his days teaching me about practicing law in a small town.”

Positives experiences with his own internships, is a big reason why Edblad feels it’s important to offer internship opportunities.

“Greg [Korstad] and Scott [Hersey] were great guys to be around,” Edblad said. “They talked about their experiences with me and answered all of my questions and allowed me to sit on court hearings with them and attend county board meetings with them. Jim [Dehn] let me sit on meetings with clients, as well as with law enforcement officials and witnesses.”

Internships provide student with an opportunity to see how the daily life of an attorney works.

“All of my internship opportunities gave me an unparalleled access to the local criminal and courts system,” Edblad said. “All three of my supervisors shared their knowledge and wisdom with me. It was a great experience for me, and I’m glad I’m able to provide that same experience for someone else. I want to thank all three of my supervisors for the opportunities and kindness they provided me during my internships.”

Edblad said after his internships, he knew he wanted to be an attorney.

“After my internships, there was no doubt in my mind this is what I wanted to do,” Edblad said. “I had great role models in all my supervisors and I try to do my best to live up to their examples.”

Hersey is the current chief of the criminal division of the Dakota County Attorneys Office.

Korstad is currently an attorney with Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren Ltd. based in Minneapolis.

“Thirty years ago, both Isanti County and the county attorney’s office were very different places from what they are today,” Korstad said. “There was a very real tension between those with roots in the community (like Jeff Edblad and me) and those seeking to join us. Most of us welcomed the out-migration but many struggled with the change it brought with.

“My initial impression of Jeff revealed a seemingly endless curiosity about the difference between the real world work I was doing from the academic training he got in law school. My second impression was his sensitivity to an apparent strong sense of ‘community awareness’—how the work we were doing affected all those around us. That understanding of the ‘big picture’ is what makes the county attorney’s position so meaningful. This is what the late Robert Gillespie (also a former Isanti County Attorney) referred to when he told me, ‘lawyers should be social engineers working to make the machinery of society function smoothly,’” Korstad added.

Over the years, Edblad said he’s grateful for all his interns, including Tim Nelson, who interned in the office in 2001.

Nelson started as an Isanti County Assistant Attorney in August 2011.

He is a 1999 graduate of Braham Area High School, and later graduated from St. Olaf College and Yale Law School.

Nelson previously worked for two different federal bench judges, and also served as policy maker during Matt Entenza’s campaign for Minnesota governor.

“We’ve had great interns in this office throughout the years, and I expect that will continue,” Edblad said. “I want to consistently provide opportunities for college and law students as long as I’m able to do. It’s truly a positive experience for them as well as my office.”