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Longtime attorney to consult with city, maintain private practice

Martinek retires (sort of) from city attorney post
Jim Martinek has reduced his workload as city attorney and in his private practice. Martinek served as city attorney from 1979 until 2001, and stepped back into the role in 2012. (photo by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– Jim Martinek saw his fair share of city council meetings and courtrooms.
He’s ready to let that part go.
Martinek, Solon’s city attorney on-and-off since 1979, is pulling back from some of his obligations as both a public and private lawyer, although it’s not quite retirement.
Maybe semi-retirement.
“After 30-plus years, it’s been a pleasure to remain with the city in a reduced capacity as assistant city attorney, and turn the reins of the legal department over to the new city attorney Kevin Olson,” Martinek said.
Olson started a contract with the city beginning July 1.
It’s not the first time Martinek tried to step down.
He resigned from the position in 2001 after more than 20 years on the job, replaced by Bruce Goddard and, subsequently, Ben Hayek. When Hayek left in 2012 to train as a Judge Advocate with the U.S. Army Reserves, Martinek stepped back in.
“Solon is growing at such a pace that the amount of legal work that we have in the last three or four years just really increased to the point that it takes more legal expertise than I’m bringing to the job currently, and it takes more time than I’m able to devote to the position at this particular point,” he said.

A native of New Hampton, he graduated law school at the University of Iowa at the tender age of 24. For approximately the next year, he worked as a VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America, now AmeriCorps) volunteer in Idaho. As part of the program, he passed the bar exam and became a legal aid lawyer serving poor and Native American populations.
When offered the job of as assistant attorney for Johnson County, he returned to Iowa. It was during that time he met his future wife, Karen, a paralegal in the legal aid office.
After a year, he sought a new position, and reached an agreement with Iowa City lawyer Marion Neely to open a satellite office somewhere in the county.
Martinek considered a number of towns before choosing Solon.
“The people were very friendly and welcoming,” he explained. The people at the bank and hardware store were pleasant and encouraging, and Martinek also liked the proximity to the lake.
“I liked the way it had a downtown and seemed to have a genuine community identity,” he continued. “I kind of felt at home here, and it felt kind of natural.”
He moved to town in 1979.
“I’ve been here ever since,” he reminisced.
Unlike other communities, he said, Solon doesn’t have factions of the public fighting with each other.
“No matter what the issue is, we seem to have people that generally care about the well-being of town, and want things to grow in an orderly manner and generally have best interests at heart,” he added.
People are enthusiastic about the school district, and Martinek, a former school board member, is happy with the results after his two children matriculated through the system.
“I’m well pleased with the education they got, and the facilities here, and I really couldn’t be happier to be living in the Solon area,” he added.

Martinek’s relationship with the City of Solon started almost four decades ago, when Mayor Harry Kral walked down the stairs to the basement of what is now Ellison Insurance, where Martinek opened an office for Neely.
“He said to me, ‘I hear there’s a lawyer’s office down here,’ and I said ‘That’s me,’” Martinek said. “I introduced myself and he said ‘There’s a meeting tonight, and we need a lawyer. Our city attorney can’t come, can you come?’”
He was hired as assistant to city attorney Bill Bartley, and after Bartley’s passing was named the successor.
It was a different time.
Council meetings were held at 7:30 p.m., and sometimes they wouldn’t have a sober quorum.
“We decided we had to have the meetings at 5:30, so they couldn’t go to the Legion first,” he recalled.
Likewise, in his basement office, Martinek adhered to the strict rules put in place by his boss, Marion Neely.
“I couldn’t unbutton the top button on my collar until after five o’clock in the office, and I had to keep my suit jacket on unless I was in my office with the door closed and nobody one else was there,” he said. “God, I hated that.”
The firm became Neely and Martinek, until Neely’s death in 2003, after which Martinek partnered with Mike Pitton.
He maintained an Iowa City office until 2008 when he moved his solo practice back to Solon.

He also served several terms as a magistrate judge for the Sixth Judicial District of Iowa
“I always thought that was an interesting part-time position,” he said. “I was looking for something a little bit different to do.”
He applied, was lucky enough to be accepted, and served into his third-term before stepping down in 2015.
“I was planning on slowing down,” he explained. “I wanted to slow down before I needed to slow down.”
Seeing his own clock beginning to tick, he decided to wind things down a bit.
“I like the job,” he said. “This isn’t work to me. It’s never been work to me. I enjoy the people that I deal with and I enjoy what I do.”
But it’s time to slow down, he added.
He’s not accepting anything that will require him to litigate in court, or anything that requires a large staff because he only has a part-time secretary.
He’ll continue doings things which can be completed in a relatively short period and with which he has extensive experience– wills, probate and estates and real estate work.
And he’ll also be back where he started as an assistant attorney for the city.
He maintains contact with city administrator Cami Rasmussen and still does a lot of the daily legal work like deeds, easements and contracts.
“It feels like I’ve slowed down a lot,” he reflected. “If feels like a great deal of pressure is really off, not only from the magistrate’s position but from the city position and I’m not taking cases that are as intense and involved and complicated as I would have, say, five or six years ago.”
But he also has plenty of other things to occupy his time.
He’s an avid reader, tries to exercise, likes to putter around in his small shop (“although I’m not handy at all”), and indulges in beekeeping as a hobby.
He and his wife of 35 years, Karen (now retired), also live on an acreage and there is always a list of things to do around the house.
“I need to have a reason to get up and put my pants on in the morning,” he explained. “Everybody that’s 65 has to figure that out, I guess.”