There is cardinal rule as a practicing attorney, if a Judge calls, you answer. In Burlington County, there is a corollary rule, if Frank Hartman calls, you answer.
And so about a month ago, when Frank Hartman called, I answered. If you don’t know Frank as a member of this organization, you really need to come out to our events more often. Because Frank is not only often present, he remains a force that moves our Bar forward. We sometimes say we are standing on the shoulders of giants, and in this Bar, Frank is one of those giants.
What was the reason for Frank’s call? Back in the Spring of 2012, after years of planning, the Bar acquired its own office space, the third floor at the newly constructed 137 High Street, across the street from the Olde Courthouse and Historic Jail. We made a fundraising push at that time, to generate the down payment and start-up costs. The monthly carrying costs are the same as we were paying in rent over at the old location on Grant Street. The Bar had turned the corner on some tough financial times, and that move put us on the path from tenant to owner with equity. We were no longer just spending, we were building a foundation. One that we knew would serve the Bar well in the future.
Over the past five years, we have made our monthly payments just as we paid rent in the past. We are now, in round figures, halfway there. I made it a goal of my year as President to conduct a major push to pay down the remainder of our debt on the Bar Headquarters. Frank Hartman was calling to tell me he wanted to help.
We sat down at his office in Main Street in Moorestown, and Frank was not only offering to help, he had pages of notes on his ideas on how to help. That plan starts with those with a history of service to the Bar and branches out from there. The goal is to build a network and eventually reach out to each and every member of the Bar. Frank suggested we focus in particular on Past Presidents, and through that discussion, a Committee was born. The Committee, as with all great Committees, was largely not in the room at the time of creation, but every one of them readily answered the call.
The new Bar Headquarters Fund Committee consists of Frank Hartman, Len Wizmur, Jim Gerrow, Joe Pinto, Liz Garcia, Kara Edens and me. Len Wizmur was President of our Bar Association in the 1993-94 term and remains an active Foundation Trustee. He has also been a Trustee to the State Bar Association and currently serves as Trustee to the State Bar Foundation. His service is not limited to the profession, and his past and present roles include volunteer and leadership roles with the Rotary, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Holocaust Resource Center, and more. Len not only has established a well-respected firm (now with McDowell Posternock), he emanates kindness and a spirit of giving.
Jim Gerrow was President of the Bar Association for the 1997-98 term. When I started practicing, Jim was already a top figure in the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office. He served for several years as State Bar Trustee, and continues to hold positions at the State Bar and County Bar on Committees ranging from the Criminal Section to Nominating Committee. He received the Professionalism Award from the State and County Bar in 1997. In 2007, after 25 years of service to the Prosecutor’s office, Jim “retired” and now practices with Sitzler & Sitzler. Jim always amazes me in his level of dedication and time. He doesn’t just show up to meetings, he contributes, and then he rolls up his sleeves before the next meeting and puts in more work.
Joe Pinto was President of the Bar Association from 2007-08. As I said the night of the Installation Dinner back in June, Joe had one of the great Presidencies of our Bar, at least during my two decades of involvement. I do not know if it was his idea to buy headquarters space, but I will credit him until told otherwise. Joe was instrumental in guiding the Bar out of a less than optimal financial condition and setting the groundwork for better financial management. He formed the initial Bar Headquarters planning Committee that, in addition to us, included Jim Landgraf, Ken Roth, and Judge Nocella.
Liz Garcia is our newly minted Past President, having just finished her term earlier this year. She is also a Past President of the Bar Foundation, and serves on numerous State-level organizations from the State Bar, New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys, and human resource-related organizations. She is on the Board of the Gloucester County Chamber of Commerce and currently serving as First Vice-Chair. Liz is one of my closest friends and confidants, and I’m always grateful for her help.
That’s the team, and through September, the next step will be taken to extend our reach. And so we hope to build to the ultimate goal of owning our Bar Headquarters, free and clear. If you receive a call from any of the Committee Members, this may very well be what we are calling about. Do me a favor, answer the call.