Paul Velasco: Downey Rotary president

DOWNEY - Remarking the other day on his 15 years of practicing law in his area of specialization, attorney Paul D. Velasco said, "It can be challenging or it can be stressful, but it's also very rewarding."

By "rewarding" he meant two things: financially, and the psychic benefits of professional altruism.

Velasco's special legal expertise is estate planning, probate and trust administration, as well as probate and trust litigation. It took him, he said, after obtaining his law degree from Loyola Law School in 1997, eight more years to be certified in his chosen specialized area by the state bar of California board of legal specialization, a distinction, according to him, "held by less than one percent of all attorneys in California."

His altruistic approach towards his clients translates into an "opportunity to help them solve their problem, and this is personally rewarding." Velasco has at the same time lectured extensively on trust and estate planning matters for the benefit of wealth management advisors, corporate trustees and other professionals.

His legal firm, Velasco Law Group, APC, of which he is principal, maintains three offices-the one in Long Beach is the main office; he has satellite offices here in Downey (at 10631 Paramount Blvd.) and in Newport Beach.

Six attorneys and five paralegals currently form his law firm, all working from Long Beach. Maintaining the office (and growing it), he said, demands that he work his tail off to cover overhead first. One senses, though, that business is good.

Given his law firm's two main areas of probate and trust administration and litigation practice, not to mention its tax and estate planning services, Velasco says he enjoys the administration aspect of it more for its transactional nature; in litigation cases, there is more confrontation, and this is liable to leave at best psychological wounds.

In 2010, sponsored by 65-year Downey Rotarian Angelo Cardono, Velasco became a member of Rotary himself. In short order, in July of this year, he was installed as Downey Rotary president, no doubt because of his demonstrated acumen and leadership qualities. (Rotary, among other things, is always on the lookout for members with leadership potential who can then be trained for positions of leadership even beyond the club level).

From all indications Velasco seems to have embraced the office's demands on him¸ including conducting his board's meetings and following up on a whole array of activities, and implementing a long list of "to do's" emanating from the district governor's office. (By the way, Downey Rotary's current district governor is Doug Baker, longtime Downey Rotarian who has served previously as club president).

Thus, between the demands on him by his law practice and his Rotary duties, it's not hard to imagine how life has been a little hectic for him. But he's lithe and relatively young (he's only 51), and he keeps in shape by doing circuit training and cardio exercises in the gym. Further, he plays basketball in Santa Monica, he swims, and he has been able to maintain an 11-handicap at Rio Hondo.

Born in Downey, Velasco grew up in Santa Fe Springs, lived here in Downey for 22 years before moving to Marina Del Rey a year-and-a-half years ago.

Not the voluble type, his revelation that his major at Cal State Long Beach (BA '90) was English Literature (favorite authors: Shakespeare and Hemingway) came as a surprise.

A product of Santa Fe High School (class of 1980), he says the Gus Velasco Neighborhood Center on Pioneer Avenue in Santa Fe Springs is named after his father, Gustavo, who worked for the city for more than 35 years, was the city's first director of social services, and later served as assistant city manager. He died two years ago. His mother, Annie, still resides in Santa Fe Springs.

Velasco says he received this bit of paternal wisdom from his dad: "True leadership is leading by example, not by word, and that it is to be used as a tool to help better the lives of others, not as an opportunity to satisfy personal greed and ego." Velasco's older sister, Renee, is a schoolteacher in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District. He has two younger brothers: Gus, Jr., 45, who runs group homes for the disabled for Mercedes Diaz Homes; and James, 47, an estate planning paralegal with the Velasco Law Group.

Recently married in July, Velasco and wife Renata honeymooned in the French Riviera in the first two weeks of September. He has two daughters by a previous marriage: Breanna, 20, a sophomore at Cal State Long Beach; and Alyssa, 17, a senior at Calvary Chapel in Downey.

Velasco says he sees his role as Downey Rotary president as "a privilege." Elaborating, he said: "I view it as yet another opportunity to be of service to the members of our club and to inspire them to engage Rotary to help change and enrich the lives of others, to improve our community and even touch the lives of others in different parts of the world."

As part of his commitment, he is taking a four-day trip in March 2014 to Colombia with district staff as part of the Downey Rotary's program of international involvement.

********** Published: Oct. 17, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 27