Michael Senneff of Santa Rosa’s Sonoma County Family YMCA has won one of North Bay Business Journal’s Nonprofit Leadership Awards
Describe your organization
The nature of my law practice has varied through the years. It has always had a general practice element handling everything from negotiating and drafting agreements, real estate transactions, family law issues, partnership issues, corporate issues to estate issues. Its focus has always been a trial practice, principally civil, both jury and non-jury, in the state and federal courts with a strong emphasis on employment issues, civil rights issues, professional negligence, and construction disputes.
The YMCA is a private non-profit charitable organization focused on providing programs, services and initiatives improving the health and well-being of our youth, our seniors, our families and our community. It is the largest private provider of day care in our community. It is multi-cultural, encouraging strength in ethnic and age diversity. It is open to all regardless of financial or economic circumstances.
At the YMCA, the number of staff is always fluctuating depending on the time of year. While the YMCA has a very strong core of full-time staff, it also has a very large part-time staff. Our staff, whether full or part-time, consider themselves a part of the YMCA family and are typically long-term loyal employees
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I am a trial lawyer who, with my recent cutback to semi-retirement status, is expanding to provide services for mediations and arbitrations. I have tried scores of jury trials to verdict in both the state and federal courts in Northern California.
With the recent change in my employment status, I have no staff. The staff in my law practice varied from six to 50.
At the same time, I have always been active in our community. I served on the City of Santa Rosa Planning Commission, as a member and chair; on its former Recreation and Parks Commission; chaired, at ten year intervals, its three Charter Review/Revision Committees (each a 10 to 12 month bi-weekly then weekly task); served as a member of and vice chair of the Sonoma County Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Adjustments; served as a Board member and Chair of Becoming Independent; served as a Board member and twice Chair of the Sonoma County Family YMCA for 41 years, now a member of its Emeritus Board; co-chaired the Sonoma County Open Space Reauthorization campaign; chaired the two gubernatorial campaigns of Governor George Deukmejian; and co-chaired the Ronald Reagan gubernatorial campaign
What is your role in the organization?
I was a founding member of my law firm and have been a managing member of it and its predecessor firms. In addition to being a member and chair of the YMCA board, I have co-chaired and then chaired its two successful capital campaigns for the expansion of its facilities and its programs.
What achievement are you most proud of?
In my practice, I have had many individual successes (with my share of disappointments) and am proud of the experiences and relationships that I developed. I take pride in my long-term relationships with my former principal partners Bonnie Hamilton (formerly Freeman), Marshall Bluestone, Pat Emery, Phil Kelly, Julie Kimelman and Larry Bernheim. I am very proud of having been inducted as a Fellow of both the American College of Trial Lawyers and of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and of serving as a Master of the American Inns of Court.
Sonoma County Family YMCA
1111 College Ave., Santa Rosa 95404
Residence: St. Helena
Professional background: Except for a period in the Sonoma County Public Defenders’ office in 1967–1968, I have been in the private practice of law, principally civil trial practice, in the North Bay Counties, in both the state and federal courts, for 51 years, having cut back my practice and semi-retired this September 1.
Education: I graduated from the Santa Rosa Junior College with an Associate of Arts Degree in l961; from the University of San Francisco with a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in economics) degree, with honors, in 1963; and from the School of Law, Kendrick Hall, at the University of San Francisco in 1966, with a Bachelor of Law (now Juris Doctor) degree with honors. I was a member of the Law School’s Honor Society (the McAuliffe Society) and a Founding Editor of its Law Review.