Paul Sumner resigns from city work to focus on defense
After decades as a city attorney, Paul Sumner will step down Friday, May 13, from representing four cities: Culver, Dufur, Maupin and Fossil. He hopes to retain his position as city attorney for Metolius, home to what he calls "his forefathers and foremothers."
Sumner spent more than 23 years as Culver's city attorney, but an even longer time representing what is now called the Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services Board. He started with the volunteer ambulance service in 1980. "They didn't have money to pay me," said Sumner, who simply kept track of his hours until they eventually could pay him. With Sumner at the legal helm, the agency went through a number of momentous transitions, including a lawsuit from Mt. View Hospital. The ambulance service prevailed when the lawsuit concluded in the early 1990s. Sumner's resignation comes just before EMS consolidates with the Jefferson County Fire District. At that point, the EMS board will no longer be necessary. The current board expects to ask voters to dissolve the board in May 2023. "I will miss it," says Sumner. "I enjoy seeing selfless people dedicate time and effort to the betterment of the community." Sumner says he saw that selflessness among people in both the fire department and in the ambulance service.
Sumner says he enjoyed working with the cities, helping improve how they operate and provides for its citizens. "When you see people's selfless dedication to anything for the public good," Sumner said of both city staff and elected officials, "it's heartwarming." A lawyer in a small community necessarily does a variety of things. Along with cities, he represented a scholarship foundation and several companies; he drew up trusts, estates, and did estate planning. Sumner graduated from Columbia College of Columbia University and graduated from the University of Oregon Law School.
In 1978, his first year as a lawyer, he worked for the Crook County District Attorney and prosecuted a few cases. At points throughout his career, Sumner served as a defense attorney. Now he will focus on defense work, "with the possibility of some exceptions," he said. He'll be working for the 22nd Circuit Defenders, LLC, which serves both Jefferson and Crook counties. "Nothing upsets me more than injustice, and sometimes someone defending a person in court can avoid injustice," said Sumner. "And I'd like to be that person."
After 44 years, Sumner will continue his law career, but he recognizes he's moving on to a new phase, so there's a note of farewell in his words. "It has really been rewarding to work with the people I've been working with for these years," he said. "I've found people who've given me insight and inspiration." Sumner says one of the joys of his practice is working along side his wife, Judy Sumner, for the past 42 years. "She's the secretary. I sometimes call her the boss," he said. "She lets me pretend I'm the boss at work."
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