‘Calm, caring, and wise’: Three Rivers City Attorney J. Patrick O’Malley honored by colleagues

City Attorney J. Patrick O'Malley holds court during Tuesday's celebration of his nearly five decades of service to the City of Three Rivers. (Beca Welty|Watershed Voice)

Tuesday night’s Three Rivers City Commission meeting took the opportunity to highlight the career of J. Patrick O’Malley as his retirement date as city attorney approaches. A special reception was held at the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce Tuesday night preceding the routine commission meeting where friends, family, and colleagues of O’Malley gathered to celebrate the 48 years he’s spent faithfully serving the city.

A member of the State Bar of Michigan since 1972, O’Malley began his nearly 50-year career by attending law school at the University of Notre Dame. His area of expertise in practicing law has proved to be extensive, and has focused on probate and estate planning, public corporation law, real property law, government law, and general practice. Prominent and respected in his field locally, O’Malley has mentored countless colleagues throughout his career.

The Honorable Jeffrey Middleton, district court judge, spoke on behalf of the St. Joseph County Bar Association in recognition of O’Malley’s years of service. Middleton had been hired by O’Malley to do legal research while he was still in the midst of law school in 1979. Middleton said the county’s bar association chose to honor the legacy of both O’Malley and longtime assistant city attorney John Barnes, who retired in November, by making donations to the Three Rivers Food Site in their names. 

Former law partner William Welty alluded to the many lessons he learned under O’Malley’s mentorship. “Everything I’ve ever done, I think about Pat and his kindness, his huge heart that he has, and how he loves people.” Barnes spoke of O’Malley’s care for his clients, describing him as remaining calm and offering wisdom during difficult proceedings. 

In closing remarks, O’Malley took the floor and regaled citizens in attendance with stories of what their city looked like when he moved to Three Rivers in 1974, and how significantly the community has grown. “I will truly miss this community,” O’Malley said. “We don’t realize how lucky we are. What community would not be envious of a city that has three rivers, water, trails, the things that you have in this community? It’s amazing.” O’Malley said while he’s retiring as city attorney at year’s end, he will be finishing up his law practice in the coming year.

On December 31, O’Malley will retire as city attorney and be succeeded by attorney T.J. Reed of Bird, Scheske, Reed & Beemer. P.C. Reed has most recently been serving as assistant city attorney, and was named as successor to O’Malley’s position in November. Reed’s law practice expertise is wide, and has focuses on civil litigation, criminal defense, municipal prosecution, domestic relations/divorce, and personal injury.

Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.