PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES; IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES, By Joel Mark

Another tradition of these Presidents’ Messages, I have been told, is that the last one must sum up the year from the President’s perspective. For me, my year as President truly was the best of times, and the worst of times.

Since you all have read every word of my prior eleven messages, you already know why I might have considered this past year in some ways to be the worst of times. However, I have decided not to repeat any of that in this final message. Rather, I have reflected on a thought that has been ascribed to the legendary Dodgers manager, Tommy Lasorda. I am told he said: “I have decided to stop telling my troubles to everyone. At least 80 percent of the people I tell them to don’t care about them and the other 20 percent are glad I am the one who has them.” So, let’s move on to the best of times.

From my perspective, the VCBA has had a very successful year, probably far more in spite of me than because of me. Thanks to Steve Henderson’s stellar leadership as our ED/CEO, we navigated back toward greater fiscal responsibility. And, he also almost succeeded in making me look like I knew what I was doing – no small task.

We have been extremely fortunate this year to have had so many talented and dedicated board members and other leaders of our sections and affiliates. Some of our merry band are pictured above.  Others who could not attend the meeting at which I was able to take this photo were no less important to our success this year.

What I believe we were most successful at was keeping the VCBA on mission. The goal has been to serve our members and serve our community. I noted with interest, for instance, that the Beverly Hills Bar Association is touting that it put on 200 CLE programs over the past year. The VCBA, with right around only 20 percent of the BHBA membership, put on almost as many. In that fashion, among others, I believe we have served our members well.

As important, we continued our support for the Volunteer Lawyer Services Program both in terms of monetary contributions and in terms of volunteer support. On that front, special kudos go to Verna Kagan and all of the other Emeritus Attorneys who support the program. And, special thanks in memoriam go to the late Earl Price, who not only supported the program with his legal talents, but, over his time with the VLSP, managed to raise more than $250,000 to keep it in a position to continue to serve the legal needs of all Ventura County communities.

Also, speaking of VLSP fundraising, thanks go as well to Immediate Past President, Dien Le, who again this year headed up the annual dinner sponsorship drive, and to Don Hurley, who once again organized the annual dinner silent auction. Together this year, they raised thousands of dollars to support VLSP, Inc., just short of last year’s record fundraising effort. In addition, Tony Strauss and Kevin Staker initiated a “new money” fundraising program for the VLSP, including the “Pro Bono Champions” program.

One of the true luxuries of concluding my year as president is the confidence I have in the leaders in line to take over the helm. I can think of no group better able to guide the association and carry on our tradition of service than the three individuals who will succeed me. They are Laura Bartels, our incoming president, Alvan Arzu, president-elect, and Bill Grewe, our incoming secretary-treasurer. These three, in my view, insure that the VCBA will be well taken care of and advised for the three years to come, and probably well beyond.

Other members of the board who put in extra hours of service over the year are manifold. Linda Ash continued to serve as able chair of the judicial evaluation committee, which had another busy year. Rennee Dehesa served   exceptionally well as president of the Barristers, and oversaw so many of their events, including the mentoring program, Judges’ Pizza Night and the event that scares me even now, dart night. Putting young lawyers, beer and darts in the same room? Duck!

Jill Friedman was exemplary as President of  the Diversity Bar Alliance, and organized the “So You Want to Be a Judge” program that concentrated on promoting greater diversity on our bench. Susan McCarthy continued her leadership of the Ventura County Trial Lawyers Association and arranged for so many informative and interesting CLE events. Christina Stokholm served as a member of the VLSP, Inc. board in addition to the VCBA board and has been an invaluable resource in the effort to obtain IOLTA funding for the VLSP. Michael Strauss has been working on organizing a mediation services program that, once it rolls out next year, should help raise additional funding for the VLSP. And Charmaine Buehner has concluded a very successful year for the Women Lawyers of Ventura County. So many others contributed, for example: David Karen has stepped up to take over the ADR section. Katie Hause Becker started the Animal Law section. Eric Reed has led the annual dinner committee once again. John Fukasawa led the Asian American Bar Association. Erik Feingold continued his leadership of the Business Litigation section. Dean Hazard continued to keep the fee dispute program on track. Lou Kreuzer kept MABA strong and relevant. David Shain was instrumental on the VLSP, Inc. board and the pro bono advisory board.

I also have to give a special shout out to the CITATIONS editorial board, especially Wendy Lascher, who did her best to keep my president’s messages well-edited and somewhat coherent. And, I know there are many others who worked diligently for the VCBA this past year. I apologize that I may have left anyone out.

I lastly want to acknowledge two past presidents who were especially helpful in guiding my thinking as your president. They are Joe Strohman and Tony Strauss. Over the years, Joe taught me that, whatever personal matters I may have been facing, it remained important for me to keep focused on what was best for the VCBA. I tried my best to heed that advice throughout. Tony’s teaching was to remind me that it also was important for me, our board and everyone else doing the heavy lifting for the organization to have a little fun along the way.

I hope I was able to both do what was right for the VCBA and its mission, and do it in a way that was not only constructive but fun. It has been a fulfilling year personally.  I thank you all for the privilege of being able to serve the VCBA as its president.

Joel Mark is Of Counsel to Hathaway, Perrett, Webster, Powers, Chrisman & Gutierrez in Ventura. Mr. Mark is very much looking forward to stepping back and marching in Laura Bartels’ army as immediate past president this next year. Whew!!

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