By Ed Jacques, LEJ Editor
It’s pretty good duty. Lot’s of fresh air, deer in your back yard, and plenty of new trout streams to investigate. And, of yeah, he’s a lot closer to many POAM members that need his legal counsel.
POAM attorney George Mertz has relocated to Gaylord, Michigan, where General Counsel Frank Guido discovered him three years ago. In 2004, Guido had convinced Mertz to leave the law firm of Plunkett Cooney, where he couldn’t eat the shrimp at parties, and his responsibilities as assistant prosecutor for the City of Gaylord, to start a new career as a full-time POAM attorney. That meant George and his wife, Amy, moving to the Detroit area to work closely with Guido and the other two members of POAM’s legal staff, Martha Champine and Douglas Gutscher. Mertz loved the “up north” lifestyle, but jumped at the opportunity to team up with the state’s most powerful police union. George’s immediate family, including his father, who served as a police officer and local POAM president for 31 years, still resides in the Detroit area. His wife, Amy, also grew up in the Metropolitan Detroit area and was able to secure new territory with the same pharmaceutical sales company that she was employed by in Gaylord.
George adjusted well to the change in work venue and became instantly popular with the POAM staff and local union leaders as he prevailed on a majority of grievances and other issues on behalf of POAM members. Although Guido wouldn’t admit it, Mertz was passing his double-secret probation with flying colors.
Over the next two years the POAM legal staff found itself traveling to Michigan’s northern counties on a regular basis to represent or defend members on many critical cases. Drive time, lodging expenses and access to technologies were starting to become an issue.
Earlier this year, Amy’s company made her a fantastic offer to move back to Gaylord and take over her old territory. Her expertise and work ethic were clearly missed. George always loved living in Gaylord and when Amy informed him of her employer’s offer, the wheels began turning. Could he sell Guido on his radical idea of having a POAM law office up north? He had witnessed Guido’s open mind and Bill Birdseye’s business sense first hand, and decided to approach the subject with them. Office Manager Lynn Singer had just upgraded POAM’s computer and telephone system which would allow George’s computer, fax machine and phone to tie right into POAM’s system, in essence giving Mertz all of the resources he needed as if he were sitting in the office next door.
George’s proposal made sense to Birdseye and Guido set some ground rules to ensure George still stays connected to the home office. George returns to headquarters 2-3 times per month for a couple of days at a time. He has continued to maintain his metro Detroit residence as well as his new home office in Gaylord. He attends all POAM functions and takes his regular turn as the POAM attorney on-call 24 hours-a-day.
George enjoys all outdoor activities and is especially passionate about trout fishing. In John Voelker’s book and Otto Preminger’s movie, Anatomy of a Murder, Upper Peninsula attorney Paul Biegler can always be found on a little trout stream when not in the courtroom. Biegler is an intelligent, lowkey gentleman lawyer who is ready for any big-city prosecutor wanting to railroad any of his clients. His role is played admirably by Jimmy Stewart and mirrors Mertz’ style. But in contrast to the movie, the only “irresistible impulse” that George Mertz has is to vigorously defend POAM members’ rights.
“My closer proximity to member groups, especially in a critical incident, is paramount to providing quality service,” comments George. “My previous experience and current work gives me the benefit of knowing and developing working relationships with local judges, prosecutors, administrative officials and politicians.”