Paul Melchert to receive Rotary Service Above Self Award

A plaque in the reception area of the Melchert Hubert Sjodin law office has inscribed upon it a quote from Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
It is apt for Paul Melchert whose life embodies giving, especially to his community.
A person’s office tells a great deal about that person. Melchert’s office is filled with legal work, of course, but there are also family pictures decorating the office and files of community projects seated on his sofa and chairs. His office and the neighboring conference room face out onto Main Street, Lake Waconia and Coney Island.
It is symbolic of how he cares for his community that he can “keep watch” over Waconia literally as well as figuratively.
Being community-minded became a part of Melchert’s DNA in his youth and was a result of his father’s influence. A pastor, his father instilled in Melchert the importance of service to others.
In 1952, Melchert took what he had learned from his father and entered the Minnesota 4-H Radio speaking Contest. The topic was “Learning to Live in My Community.” He won the competition, gave his speech on WCCO, and sat beside the then Governor at the celebration banquet. However, the most important part of that speech to him is that he takes it out periodically to review and ensure he is still walking the talk.
Raised in this area, Melchert entered the military and served 31 years in the Minnesota Army National Guard and Army Reserve as part of his service to his country. He attained the rank of Colonel. His work with American Red Cross as the service to military families officer for many years also gave him a sense of fulfillment by serving those who served our country.
Melchert began practicing law in Waconia with W. R. Glaeser on Oct. 1, 1959 until 1966 when Glaeser went on to become Carver County Attorney. In 1967, Melchert began adding attorneys to the firm. Today Melchert Hubert Sjodin stands at 20 attorneys and many other dedicated employees.
Melchert has served his legal profession in a variety of ways including being a member of the American Bar Association, the Minnesota State Bar Association, and the Eighth District Bar Association as well as being on the Board of Governors for the Minnesota State Bar Association from 1994-2000. In 2009, he was honored with the Minnesota Lawyer Attorney of the Year Award for Outstanding Service to the Profession.
He has also served as city attorney not only for Waconia, but also for Chaska, Watertown, Cologne, St. Bonifacius and other communities. He drew up the original Articles of Incorporation in 1962 for the current Waconia Chamber of Commerce and is now back on the Board for a third time. He is now on the City of Waconia Downtown Development Task Force and has tried to be involved in every civic organization in Waconia.
An example is the Christmas tree lights in the park. For 13 years he and his beloved wife Joyce, together with assistance at various times from the Waconia Fire Department, A.A.L., and Waconia Lions, physically strung Christmas lights on 22 trees in the park.
“It’s not just a matter of talking about service,” Melchert said. “It’s physically doing it.”
When the city took over the Christmas tree decorations, he and Joyce stepped back.
“It was time for someone else to have this opportunity, but I’m glad we were able to do what we did,” he said.
Melchert has also served both public and private schools in the area. In fact, in 1994, he and Dr. Scott Jensen co-chaired the bond issue drive for the building of the existing public high school.
“A better public school system makes a better private school system, and a better private school system makes a better public school system,” Melchert intoned.
In addition, he served Ridgeview Medical Center as attorney and as a member of the Ethics Committee and Planned Giving Committee. He also acted as co-chair with Dr. Jim Lehmann of one of the major hospital fund drives.
However, some of his most memorable experiences have come with public service to the community directly. He taught badges for the Boy Scouts including the three Citizenship badges for approximately 30 years. He also is proud of the work done by the Waconia Lions, an organization to which he’s belonged for more than 50 years with a perfect attendance record and a ready and willing hand for any of their many and varied projects. He co-chaired the Trinity Church building committee when the present church was built in 1969 and has served as president or other office at the church for 52 of the past 54 years. Then, of course, there is the choir.
Waconia has been the perfect spot for Melchert to live and enjoy another one of his passions: history. He is a life member of the Carver County Historical Society and served on its board from 1994-2003. In addition, he helped organize the Waconia Heritage Association and has been the president since its inception in 1983.
He proudly notes the publication of the first Waconia history book as to the lake and its island and that the second book as to the town and its people is close to completion. He raves about the work of others in making this a possibility.
As he speaks about these community projects, he praises his wife, who has supported his work or worked not only by his side, but hand in hand.
“We both know we’ve been so blessed. So we need to help others who haven’t been as blessed,” he said.
In the end, when asked what he would say to others to encourage them to place service above self, he stated, “Service ought to be part of what everyone should do. We all need passion, commitment to our communities. Otherwise, you’re an empty shell. We were placed on this earth to do more than occupy space. Service to others is a privilege. It’s an opportunity. It’s something we all need to do.”
The Waconia-West Carver Rotary Gourmet Wine Dinner on Saturday, Jan. 18 at Island View Dining will feature the Service Above Self Award presentation to Melchert and also both silent and live auction items as well as a delectable meal with wine pairing.
Tickets are still available from Wine Dinner chairman Chuck Dueber at (612) 281-0093 or [email protected] or from any Rotary member.