Energy force: MAE Executive Director returns to private practice

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

When she was younger, Michigan Agency for Energy Executive Director Valerie Brader talked to plenty of attorneys who had interesting jobs. They told her if she wanted to pursue a compelling career like theirs, she’d have to become an attorney herself.

And she did.

An attorney for more than 15 years, the 41-year-old Brader left state office in February to return to private practice with a law firm in Troy.

An Ann Arbor resident, Brader graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. She also was a visiting student at the University of Michigan Law School.

Brader graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges in Cambridge, Mass. with her undergraduate degree in government. A Rhodes Scholar, she has a graduate degree in environmental change and management and another graduate degree in historical studies – both from the University of Oxford in England.

Brader served as an adviser to former Gov. Phil Batt (R-Idaho) and was the law clerk for the late John Feikens, senior judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Under Feikens, she was an environmental consultant to the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency. She later joined Bodman, PLC, a Michigan law firm that has five offices throughout the state.

Brader has been involved in state government under Gov. Rick Snyder for nearly seven years, starting in 2011 as the chief energy policy officer for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Next, she was Snyder’s senior policy adviser for eight months, then became the deputy legal counsel. She stayed in that position for four years until the creation of MAE in May 2015 when Snyder appointed her executive director.

“The organization of MAE started the month of May. Around the same time, the governor created the (Michigan Department of) Talent Economic Development – TED – and then the Talent Investment Agency – TIA. The joke around Lansing was we were literally personalizing government; everything had to be a (person’s) name,” she said with a laugh.

During her time at MAE, Brader led the legal team in negotiations to secure the City of Flint a responsible, long-term water contract spanning 30 years. In her prior legal role, Brader was the point person for Snyder’s legal team on the Detroit bankruptcy and played a key role in the Detroit lighting legislative package.

Additionally, Brader led negotiations for the Snyder Administration on the 2016 energy law package that garnered bipartisan support from more than two-thirds of the legislators in both chambers and was signed into law in December 2016.

According to Brader, it was the right time to leave. A lot of the goals she had set for MAE have been met.

“It’s been an honor to serve the citizens of Michigan and Gov. Rick Snyder,” said Brader. “I’m proud of the work (MAE) has done with so many of our partners toward a more reliable and affordable energy future for Michigan. Together, we passed energy legislation that will be a national model, (we) were recognized nationally for our leadership in energy infrastructure and security issues, ensured that the Upper Peninsula could have a bright energy future that they could control, re-invented our grant-making programs in response to feedback from stakeholders, and helped thousands of customers with their utility issues.”

Brader has joined Rivenoak Law in Troy as a partner, working in energy and environmental law, as well as becoming CEO of Rivenoak Consulting, working with businesses in the energy field. “It gives me opportunities to help businesses as a consultant or through more traditional legal work,” said Brader.

Catherine T. Dobrowitsky, Rivenoak’s president and founder, was one of Brader’s first legal mentors. Like Brader, she also clerked for Judge Feikens

“We’ve remained close friends and we were talking about what was next for me. Then we started talking about what if we were partners. That sounded very exciting – to build something on my own with one of my best friends. It seemed like the right next step,” said Brader.

Throughout her law career, Brader has earned several prestigious awards and accolades, including being the youngest person in the nation to be selected to assist a federal court under the “Special Master” rule.
She also was selected by Crain’s Detroit Business as one of the “40 under 40” in Metro Detroit, by Michigan Lawyers Weekly as a “rising star,” and by the Joyce Ivy Foundation as its Leader of the Year.
Additionally, she was the past winner of the Harvard College Women’s Leadership Award and was the first runner-up in the Pacific Legal Foundation’s national writing competition.

“I’ve been blessed to have wonderful opportunities and really good mentors throughout my career,” said Brader. “People told me I should apply to Harvard when I would never have dreamed of it.

“People told me I should apply for the Rhodes (Scholarship) when I would never have dreamed of that. I’ve been blessed throughout my career with people who could help me see what I could achieve.”

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