Melodie Rose this week became the first woman to lead Fredrikson & Byron, Minnesota's largest law firm.

Rose, an expert in securities regulation and corporate governance, has been with the firm 33 years. She took over from John Koneck, who was president of the firm with 735 employees, including 388 attorneys, for 19 years.

Koneck also served 29 years on the firm's board of directors, leading Fredrikson through the unprecedented shifts to remote work during the pandemic and its recent headquarters relocation from U.S. Bank Plaza into smaller digs at the new RBC Plaza in Minneapolis.

"I'm super excited," Rose said during an interview Thursday.

The Medina resident who grew up on a farm in western North Dakota has spent her entire legal career at Fredrikson. The 75-year-old firm's board appointed her president on Tuesday.

Her appointment as one of only a few female company presidents in Minnesota did not go unnoticed.

"Wow. That is huge. This is wonderful," said Dee Thibodeau, the owner of Charter Solutions and founder of the Minnesota chapter of Women Corporate Directors.

"She has been very active in the women corporate directors [movement]. Melodie is a mover and shaker and she will be such a great leader," Thibodeau said. "She has been a leader" and instrumental in helping steer women into executive leadership roles.

Only 22.7% of corporate leaders in 78 public companies in the state are women, according to St. Catherine University's Minnesota Census of Women in Leadership. Minnesota trails the national benchmark of 26%, but gained a little ground this week.

"Any step forward is a big step forward," said St. Catherine President Becky Roloff, upon hearing Rose's news. "This helps everyone. I cheer on any movement like this."

Rose joins a few other women at the helm of Minnesota law firms, including Tammera Diehm at Winthrop & Weinstine and Amanda Cialkowski at Nilan Johnson Lewis.

In her new post, Rose joins Fredrikson's three-member executive committee. Koneck will remain at the firm practicing real estate law and doing pro bono work, for which the firm is well known.

Koneck said getting through the pandemic and completing the office move created a good opportunity to make a change, adding that he leaves the leadership in "excellent" hands.

"The demonstrated dedication of Melodie to our firm, our clients and our profession, her sharp business and financial acumen, combined with her years of leadership experience in our firm, will undoubtedly drive Fredrikson's continued growth and success," Koneck said.

Rose said she recognizes that being the first woman president in the firm's 75 years is "a historic step" but that her progression in leadership roles over the years to this one "feels fairly natural and organic."

She said her passion has always centered around acting as the general counsel for corporate clients, navigating them through tough times and helping them with corporate governance issues.

"The best thing about what I do in practicing law, in my opinion, is being able to partner with my clients and figuring out how to help them get through their brightest moments, their darkest moments and everything in between," she said. "It's just fairly rewarding to me to feel like I'm — and we're — part of or an extension of their team."

Going forward, Rose wants to embrace innovative technology, tackle shifting trends in where and how employees work and grow smart and strategically the in the firm's current markets, which include Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Her early actions as president will involve trips to the firm's Midwestern offices to get to know people better, she said. The firm has 10 offices, including ones in Mexico and China.

She also expects to continue Koneck's legacy which has been heavily involved in social justice efforts and providing pro bono services to businesses and individuals in low-income neighborhoods and those challenged by the riots of 2020.

Rose currently serves on Fredrikson's board of directors, chairs its business division and co-chairs its Public Companies and Corporate Governance Groups. Separately, Rose sits on the board of the Minnesota chapter of the National Association of Corporate Directors and is a member of the Minnesota chapter of Women Corporate Directors.

In addition to Rose, Fredrikson also announced the appointment of executive vice presidents Kevin Goodno and Jamie Snelson and the firm's new chief operating officer, Ann Rainhart.