As my year as president comes to a close, I am reflecting back on a year that brought us tremendous change and impressive improvement to the operations of the San Joaquin County Bar Association and the San Joaquin County Bar Foundation. I am extremely proud of what we have wrought. And I have great hope for continuing improvement in our operations, in our service to the community, and in our benefit to membership.
I have recounted before the changes that we have experienced this year (new executive director, new offices, new staff, renewed contract with the County for court-assigned counsel, audits of our finances, restructuring our financial controls, revisions to bylaws, improvements to rules of operation, and on and on) but what I would like to do with my closing message is to express my appreciation and deepest gratitude for all of those who gave of themselves in terms of their time, energy, devotion and care. Without the hard work of so many people, we could not have accomplished what we did.
It all starts with the Bar and Foundation staff. I want to thank each one of them and acknolwedge their hard work on our behalf. Long-time assistant director Linda Mussat stood right up when the previous director left. She was the very model of stability, keeping the organization on an even keel in those early days of transition. Communications coordinator Natalie Vernon was always available, morning, evenings, days off, and weekends, when I needed to get an announcement out or to modify some graphics. Janette Rossell came on board and immediately dove into work to stabilize our Dispute Resolution Services. The staff are the nuts and bolts of the organization. Without them, nothing would get done. I thank them all.
I appreciate each and every member who continues to belong, and thereby support the good work that we do. Our membership is our life’s blood. I am grateful for the many committee and task force members that do the daily work on behalf of their sections. They have (mostly) been extremely patient in waiting for the financial records to be sorted, yet they maintained their services to the sections and other beneficiaries. I was pleased that the Judge Franklin Stephenson scholarships were given out without a hitch this year. And I am proud that the First Impressions program continues to grow in its reach to the community. So many members volunteered of their time to make that work. Their contributions were seen and noted.
Being a member of the Board of Governors can be a taxing job. Depending on what you are tapped for or what you volunteer for, governors may find themselves devoting hours to the cause. I would like to thank each member personally for his or her service. Outgoing members are Russell Humphrey and Lance Jacot. Returning members include Rebecca Sem, Gene Eacret, Anna Maples, Leah Gillis, Katie Limas and Armando Villapudua. Their lives are busy enough, yet they give of themselves for us. They deserve a “thank you” when you see them.
The Executive Committee is composed of governors who take on the extra duties of serving as corporate officers. We have more tasks, more meetings, and more responsibilities. Adam Grace became our treasurer at a time when our financial house was not in best order. He threw himself into learning finance and accounting, and into making some sense of the information that we had. And by the way, in his spare time, he assisted greatly in the search for new office space. His efforts and contributions were invaluable. Similarly, Jon Garzoli served as secretary with patience and persistence. He made order of what was often a chaotic atmosphere. He was thoughtful and engaged, which can be difficult when you also are charged with writing it all down.
Ralph Womack brought his extensive experience and calm demeanor to us at just the right time. He brightened the office and cheered the staff. We relied on him for guidance and for running the show. He was steady, clear, and reliable. He only wanted a brief stint, but as the search for a permanent director dragged on, he graciously stayed on and stayed in the driver’s seat until we found our person. I cannot express enough the gratitude and appreciation that I have for Mr. Womack and the job he did.
Robert Oakes, our new executive director, just came on board, but I did want to mention that, from what he has done so far, I have no doubt in my mind that future presidents will be expressing their appreciation for a job well done.
Finally, I want to express, as sincerely as a lawyer can, my deepest appreciation for our president-elect, Heather Rubino, and our immediate past president, Erin Guy Castillo. The three of us spent many long hours meeting, three-way calling, three-way texting or telepathically communicating about the many, many issues that arose this year. We picked each other up, straightened each other out, and talked each other into and out of troubles and resolutions. There were hard times. There were emotional times. There were lots of laughs. Two better compadres I could not have hoped to have.
It was a great year, made so by many great people. I had an enjoyable year at the helm. It was hard work, but it was fun. I hope to provide a lot of help to Heather in her coming year as president. (I also hope to earn a mention in her closing column.)
Groucho Marx said, “When you are in jail, a good friend will work on bailing you out. A best friend will be sitting next to you saying, ‘Damn, that was fun.’”
It was fun, people. Thank you.