edly in 13 places—“when he
tried to go over a curb.”
Schmitt laughs and says,
“Going over boulders is no
problem for Alex, but a curb?”
Adding a little-known fact
about Vakula and his running
history, Murphy mentions Alex
has received numerous dog
“Alex has an ass that is filet
mignon to dogs”—which may
be a first for a Bar President.
Prescott’s Nob Hill, up the
ridge from Courthouse Square,
is the site of numerous historic
buildings. That includes the
1894 Marks house, originally
owned by a liquor distributor,
that was Vakula’s law office and
now is his home.
“They were going to build
the state capitol on that hill,”
says Vakula. Ultimately the state
sold the property. “The Goldwaters got the top lot because
they were high class, and Jake
Marks got the lowest lot because he dealt in liquor. But I
think we got the better view.”
Schmitt says he and Murphy are proud to
have recruited Vakula to take on leadership
roles, whether in Prescott or the State Bar.
“We think it’s important to remember
that you owe a lot to your profession,” says
Schmitt. “You’re a steward,” and giving back
is part of the bargain.
Both men know the toll a presidency
can take on a law practice, but they say the
Prescott legal community supports Vakula.
“I’ve offered to make court appearances
for him,” says Murphy, “and I know others
have done the same.” He says he knows
dozens of lawyers who are willing to help.
One notable leadership moment came at
the ASU Alumni Association, where Vakula’s
wife formerly worked. Chatting in the mid-
1990s with then-director Don Dotts about
the plan to build a new alumni center, Vakula
said, “Why don’t you just renovate Old
Main? It’s a beautiful building.” That off-
hand remark got Vakula named to the reno-
vation committee—and his efforts eventual-
ly won him a cherished and rare lithograph
of the historic 1898 structure.
Stewardship is what comes to mind when
Gerald Szostak thinks of Vakula—that, and
a sense of humor.
Szostak is the Executive Director of the
Boys & Girls Club of Central Arizona, on
whose board Vakula sits. He calls the attorney a great contributor.
“He brings friends into the club, he
knows our programs, and he keeps active.
When I mention Alex’s name, people often
say, ‘I love that guy.’”
Vakula assisted on a first-time effort for
the organization—a dancing with the stars-
type fundraiser. It raised $131,000, which
“exceeded all expectations,” says Szostak.
He adds that Vakula makes being on the
board enjoyable. “He can be a serious guy,”
Szostak says, “but it’s guys like Alex who
know that we run on youth development, so
this should be fun.”
“Hilarious” is one of the first words
Court of Appeals Judge Jennifer Campbell
uses to describe the new Bar
President. In 2004, her first
Arizona job was as an associate
at Vakula & Kottke, and in her
interview she fielded a query
that said a lot about the part-
ners and Prescott: “Do you play
softball?” Legal acumen—and
a competitive on-field spirit —
made it a good match.
Vakula “has no bluster and
is always reasonable,” Camp-
bell says. “He’s ethical and
kind, a consensus builder, and
he is an excellent draftsperson.
My written product is so much
better because of him.”
Judge Randall Howe, also
on the Arizona Court of Ap-
peals, looks forward to Vaku-
la’s leadership as Bar Presi-
dent. Back in 1986, they
worked together as law clerks
at the Greyhound Corpora-
tion (which later became Dial
and then Viad).
“People always liked Alex,”
Howe says. “He’s a really
friendly guy. I think he is well
positioned to help the Bar.”
As the summer reaches its midpoint, rural
areas remain on edge as fires in the north
and south threaten communities. And those
fires remind Schmitt of the way Vakula re-
fused to be a spectator when grieving Hot-
shot families needed help.
“Everybody wanted to do something,”
says Schmitt, “but there was chaos. Alex
jumped in and brought some order.”
The disjointed efforts meant money was
going in multiple directions, and the public
grew unsure about which charities they
could trust. A process had to be created,
Among other efforts, Vakula reached
out to Ken Feinberg, famous for devising
donation systems in the wake of tragedies
such as the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The resulting Arizona system led to widespread praise that the families were treated
“Nobody asked Alex to do it,” Judge
Campbell adds. “He just did it.”
New State Bar
President Alex Vakula
Alex Vakula stands in front of his Prescott home, the 1894 Marks House.