Local lawyer chosen by Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce for ‘Spirit of Sonoma’ award
“A guy who can’t say no.” That’s Jim DeMartini, the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce nominee for the annual 2017 Spirit of Sonoma award, a countywide effort to recognize local volunteers and community leaders. He will receive his award at a luncheon event in Rohnert Park on Dec. 8.
Jimmy D, as he’s affectionately known around town, is ready to pitch in. Whether it’s making spaghetti on a moment’s notice for a couple hundred evacuees who fled the Pocket Fire east of town or helping a nonprofit attain official status from the IRS.
Despite a hand and wrist cast, DeMartini was there at 6 a.m. when City Manager Paul Cayler asked him to “feed people” at the Citrus Fair which had been designated the evacuation center for fire victims. “Of course,” was the answer. He quickly rounded up a team of Rotarians and volunteers from the LDS Church to serve as kitchen crew. By 2 p.m. breakfast and lunch had been served and a giant pot of spaghetti sauce was ready for folks fleeing the fires.
Nonprofits that benefitted from his pro bono advice to become nonprofits as designated by the Internal Revenue Service include the Boys & Girls Club, the Ponytail League, the Rotary Club of Cloverdale Foundation, Amigos de Guatemala and a dozen more.
“Cloverdale is an amazing place. Everyone volunteers,” he said. But things have changed a bit from when he first arrived in the mid-70s. “In those days there were lots of jobs in town; either at the Geysers power stations or in the mills. People lived here, worked here, and shopped here. That has changed as the town grew from 2,400 to 8,500 today.”
DeMartini was part of that change and the way Cloverdale looks today. He was on the Planning Commission from 1979 to 1987. The group brought forward the first weed abatement ordinance and initiated a Design Review Commission in an effort to bring some order to the way neighborhoods looked.
As president of the Cloverdale Citrus Fair Parade Association, DeMartini led a rejuvenation of the February event that draws thousands to downtown Cloverdale.
He’s been on the board, and occasionally chairman, of the Cloverdale Healthcare District since 1989. The district operates the ambulance. In recent years, and after a couple of small tax increases, a modest reserve has been established to help cover the cost of replacing worn-out ambulances. They last five to seven years and generally retire after 150,000 to 200,000 miles, said Tom Hinrichs, Cloverdale Healthcare District CEO.
DeMartini chaired the Cloverdale Economic Development Commission from 1998 to 2002, a time of rapid growth including the Del Webb retirement community and the all-age Cottages development at the southern edge of town.
In 2016 DeMartini was president of the Sonoma County Bar Association. Going through the chairs of the organization allowed him to meet many of the younger, upcoming attorneys in the county. “Sonoma County is lucky to have a group of well-qualified lawyers to meet the community needs for the years to come,” he said.
DeMartini has also found a way to combine business with pleasure. For more than 30 years, he’s played string bass with the Healdsburg Community Band where he served as president and remains as general counsel.
He’s part of a jazz duo with Phil Vangelder, called Vantini.
Recently he joined with a group of musical judges and attorneys to form the country and western band, Court ‘n Disaster. They play all over Sonoma County and you can follow them on Facebook (and buy their album, Guilty as Charged, on iTunes).
He’s an avid outdoorsman fishing and hunting with buddies from around the county. While DeMartini “can’t say no,“ he seems to have a great life of fun and giving while saying yes.