Our Team

The BlackRidgeBANK team is made up of professional bankers with vast experience and a deep understanding of the community. They appreciate the trust you’ve placed in our bank and are dedicated to ensuring that you receive the banking products you need and the service you expect.

All Region

Brenda K. Foster
Chairman & CEO

Brenda has over 38 years of banking experience, including senior bank management, lending, trust, and operations. She is the CEO and Chairman of the Board for both BlackRidgeBANK and First Western Bank & Trust. Brenda currently serves as a Class A director on the Federal Reserve Board of Minneapolis’ board of directors, Chairman of the Large Community Bank Council for the Independent Community Banks of America. She has previously served as President for the Independent Banks of North Dakota, instructor for Junior Achievement as well as active in a variety of national, state and local organizations. A native of Minot, ND, Brenda holds an associate’s degree and bachelor’s degree in Accounting with a concentration in banking and finance from Minot State University. She is married to her husband Wayne, and they have two children.

Contact Brenda K. Foster

Joel Staehling

Joel has over 20 years of banking experience, including senior bank management and commercial lending. As both the President of BlackRidgeBANK and branch president, Joel oversees a dedicated team that prides itself on providing outstanding financial products and high-quality service. He also uses his experience to serve as the senior executive of BlackRidgeMORTGAGE. A native of St. Cloud, Joel holds an undergraduate degree in finance from Augsburg College and an MBA from St. Cloud State. He lives in Baxter with his wife and three children, and currently serves on the Brainerd Basketball Association board and coaches multiple teams in local youth athletics.

Contact Joel Staehling

Dawn Ystaas
Chief Financial Officer

Contact Dawn Ystaas

John Jessen
ND Region President

John has more than 21 years of banking expertise in a variety of capacities. His experience includes processing commercial loans, selling brokerage products in a bank setting and managing the business banking department of a large local bank. John draws on this experience to lead his team as a branch president and ensure that customers receive common-sense solutions and outstanding service. John remains active in day-to-day operations, which allows him to stay in touch with clients and staff. He also serves as North Dakota Region President for BlackRidgeBANK, in addition to being the Chairman of the Senior Credit Committee. In his free time, John enjoys spending time with his family, exercising and playing sports.

Contact John Jessen

Doug Benzer
VP & Chief Technology Officer

Doug oversees all BlackRidgeBANK technology resources and serves as the primary Information Security Officer. He has more than a decade of experience working in the technology sector, and has been with BlackRidgeBANK for eight years.

Contact Doug Benzer

Kim Kaul
VP & Chief Credit Officer

Kim oversees various credit administration functions with BlackRidgeBANK. He has been in the banking industry for 35 years and has experience in many positions including lending, leasing, credit administration, loan review, and mergers and acquisitions. Kim has a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Economics from the University of North Dakota.

Contact Kim Kaul

Lori Kubitz
VP & Director of Compliance

Lori manages bank-wide compliance functions, including audit, policy and procedural development, training, and exam liaison, while providing regulatory outreach and research. She also serves as CRA Officer. With more than 25 years of experience in banking, Lori has held leadership positions in retail, commercial and compliance departments. She holds the Certified Community Bank Compliance Officer (CCBCO) and Certified BSA/AML Professional Officer (CBAP) certification’s through the Independent Community Bankers of America Association.

Contact Lori Kubitz

Laurie Pulkrabek
VP & Director of Bank Operations

Laurie manages all bank operations, including item processing/exception processing, electronic banking, vendor management, BSA/AML and fraud prevention, cash and security controls, and correspondent banking/funds settlement. She has more than 40 years of experience in the banking industry, and has assisted with more than 150 bank-conversion implementations.

Contact Laurie Pulkrabek

Alexandria Region

Chris Merten
Business Banking Loan Officer

Chris has 8 years of banking experience, with the past 3 years focused on lending.  Chris received a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Metropolitan State University, and his associate degrees in Finance and Credit Management & Accounting from Alexandria Technical College. As an Alexandria native, Chris understands what having the right products, services, and dedication in a banking partner can truly mean for individuals and businesses alike. Chris enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 children, along with hunting, fishing, and cooking. Chris is also an active member in Rotary and Viking Sportsmen. 

Contact Chris Merten

Dave Currens
Market President

Dave is a native of Wheaton, MN, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Minnesota State University Moorhead. He comes to us with a long history of leadership and banking experience; most recently serving as a Senior Lender & Branch Manager before moving to Alexandria. 

Contact Dave Currens

Corey Simonson
VP & Business Banking Manager

Corey has more than 8 years of lending experience, most of it in commercial lending. In his role, Corey helps ensure that local businesses and individuals have the financial products they need to be successful. Corey received a bachelor’s degree in business management from Southwest Minnesota State University and an associate’s degree in finance/credit management from Alexandria Technical College. Corey has lived in the Alexandria area for more than 10 years with his wife and two children. He enjoys hunting and fishing in his spare time.

Contact Corey Simonson

Jill Leeseberg
VP & Retail Services Manager

Jill has more than two decades of experience in finance and banking, including credit analysis, equipment leasing, cash management, and retail banking. As Retail Services Manager, Jill strives to create an outstanding banking experience for consumer and commercial clients. Jill received a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Marketing from Minnesota State University – Moorhead. Along with her husband and two children, Jill has lived in the Alexandria area for more than 20 years, where she also enjoys being part of many different community activities.

Contact Jill Leeseberg

Joni Wunderlich
Branch Manager

Joni has more than 33 years of banking experience in a variety of positions, including consumer, real estate and commercial lending for a community bank. As branch manager in BlackRidgeBANK’s Carlos and Miltona locations, a position she’s held since 1991, Joni ensures that individuals, families and businesses receive the right banking products for their needs as well as consistent, outstanding services from our dedicated staff. Joni is involved in many community activities, including Carlos Commercial Club, Carlos Developers and Team Miltona.

Contact Joni Wunderlich

Karrie Bahr
AVP & Client Services Officer

Karrie Bahr has 20 years of banking experience. She has 9 years lending experience including consumer and commercial lending for community banks. Karrie focuses on the customer and their financial needs and strives to provide the best product while providing exceptional customer service. Karrie has lived in the Alexandria area for 14 years and she enjoys hunting with her 4 dogs, fishing, and spending time with family and friends.

Contact Karrie Bahr

Nichole Shell
Client Services Specialist

Nichole has over 16 years experience in the banking industry with 8 of those years in consumer lending. Nichole joined the BlackRidge bank team in 2017 after relocating to Alexandria from the Fargo/Moorhead area with her 2 children. She specializes in consumer loans such as vehicle loans, camper loans, recreational vehicles as well as Home Equity loans & Home Equity lines of credit. As a consumer lender, Nichole is dedicated to finding the best consumer product to meet the customers individual needs. In Nichole’s spare time, she enjoys being at the lake with family and friends and being involved with her children’s numerous activities.

Contact Nichole Shell

Bismarck Region

Joel Kostelecky
VP & Business Banking Manager

Joel has more than 15 years of banking experience, the last 8 being with BlackRidgeBANK. Joel’s no-nonsense approach to business banking allows him to provide both conventional and unconventional financing options for his clients. In his role he manages the Business Banking functions for the Bismarck region including loan processing, credit administration and credit underwriting. Joel enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters, golfing, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding and cooking.

Contact Joel Kostelecky

Kayla Kraus
AVP & Business Banking Loan Officer

Kayla has over 12 years experience in the banking industry in various areas including personal and business banking. She has been with BlackRidgeBANK for 10 years, starting in the Fargo bank in 2007 and joined the Bismarck team in 2009. Kayla prides herself in providing exceptional service and exceeding customer expectations. She is a 2008 graduate of North Dakota State University with a degree in Business Administration and minor in Accounting. Kayla is also involved with the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber as an Ambassador. She enjoys spending her free time with family and friends, shopping, and being outdoors.

Contact Kayla Kraus

Brittany Peterson
Client Services Officer

Brittany joined BlackRidge in 2012 as a teller and later took the position of Client Services Specialist. In her position as a Consumer Loan Officer, she is responsible for originating all types of personal loans such as Home Equity loans, vehicle loans, camper loans and recreational vehicle loans. Brittany also opens both business and personal deposit accounts.

Contact Brittany Peterson

Katie Chorne
Loan Administration Officer

Katie joined BlackRidgeBANK in 2009 as a client service representative, and in 2010 was promoted to Loan Administration Specialist. Over the years she has overseen the commercial loan processing for all Bismarck Lenders. In early 2017, Katie was promoted to Loan Administration Officer, where she continues to oversee the processing role, with the addition of credit administration. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids.

Contact Katie Chorne

Brainerd Region

Darren Larson
VP & Business Banking Loan Officer

Darren joined BlackRidgeBANK in 2007 and has more than 15 years of commercial lending experience. Originally from Alexandria, Darren has lived in the Brainerd Lakes area since 2003. He earned a master’s degree from St. Cloud State University as well as degrees in economics and financial management from the University of North Dakota. Married with two children, Darren is active in the Brainerd Area Sertoma Club and Lord of Life Church. He also coaches youth athletics and is a certified high school basketball official.

Contact Darren Larson

Jim VonHoltum
VP & Business Banking Manager

A native of Worthington, Jim has a wealth of banking, lending and other experience from previous banking positions, including an agricultural background. Working out of the Baxter office, Jim serves small business and individual bank clients and chairs the bank’s loan committee. Jim lives in Baxter and has a passion for golf and family.

Contact Jim VonHoltum

Russ Hale
AVP & Branch Manager

Russ has more than 20 years of experience in lending, including 15 in a bank environment. He joined BlackRidgeBANK in 2002 and heads our consumer lending staff. Originally from Brainerd, Russ lived in Seattle, Wash., for nearly a decade before returning home to the Brainerd Lakes area. Russ has served on multiple boards of directors including the Nisswa Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass County, and the local animal shelter HART. Russ lives in Baxter with his wife and has one grown daughter.

Contact Russ Hale

Craig Henningson
AVP & Branch Manager

A native of Brainerd, Craig has been with BlackRidgeBANK bank since 2002 as a true community banker to the Crosslake market. He has vast expertise in both personal and business loans and lake home financing. Craig has been a member of the Deerwood Fire Department for 20 years, and also serves as its Treasurer. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time doing outdoor activities with his family and friends.

Contact Craig Henningson

Fargo Region

Emily Larby
Business Banking Loan Officer

Emily brings 12 years of experience to our West Fargo branch in the financial services industry including roles as a teller, personal banker, branch manager, and commercial lender.

Contact Emily Larby

Jace Holm
Business Banking Loan Officer

Jace joined BlackRidgeBANK in West Fargo in the spring of 2020. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Minnesota State University Moorhead and has six years of banking experience.

Contact Jace Holm

Andy Lerud
Senior Credit Officer

Andy Lerud is a CPA with 12 years of experience in the areas of credit analysis, commercial lending and public accounting. Andy previously worked as a Senior Business Analyst and prior to that he spent 7 years in Commercial Credit and Private Banking.

Contact Andy Lerud

Gerald Brossart
SVP & Business Banking Manager

Gerald Brossart has over 30 years of banking experience in various capacities including being a Market President. Gerry is well connected in the community and is involved in many different organizations; he has been in banking in the Fargo market for 13 years. 

Contact Gerald Brossart

Diana Chase
VP & Client Services Manager

Diana brings with her over 29 years of extensive banking experience in areas of consumer lending, operations and auditing. Her philosophy has always been to provide the highest quality of customer service to Clients by assisting them with attaining the best consumer products and services to meet their individual needs. As a Consumer Lender, Diana has access to a vast range of consumer products to assist her in continuing her exceptional customer service to the Clients of BlackRidgeBANK. In her spare time, Diana likes spending time at the lake, walking, watching sports, movies and being with her family and friends.

Contact Diana Chase