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Jonathan Rothschild (`81) had been practicing law in his father’s Tucson firm, Mesch, Clark & Rothschild, for 20 years, when he decided to step up his personal commitment to his hometown. For years, he had donated many hours to Tucson nonprofits, which included serving as board president of Casa de los Ninos, Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging and Temple Emanu-El.
But in 2004, he was ready to enter an entirely new arena: politics.
“I decided that it was time someone like myself, with strong opinions and thought, should become involved with the political process,” he said. His first position was as treasurer of the Pima County Democratic Party. “I had admiration for what people did for little money and a lot of criticism; they move forward with public policy they believe in.”
In 2011, he made his first run for office – to become mayor. He was a new face and offered a new approach to running the city, which proved to be a winning combination.
He traded in his office at his father’s law firm for a spacious office at City Hall, where he now looks over the city that formed him.
Despite what might seem like an obvious route to a law career, Rothschild, in fact, had planned to stay away from the law. But after earning his bachelor’s degree from Kenyon College, he worked in a pre-trial release program in Pima County, which sent him to a courtroom every day. That’s when he decided to become a criminal defense lawyer, so he could free innocent people.
“I visited a number of law schools, and knew that I wanted to go to a school where the students were smiling,” he said. “When I visited the University of New Mexico School of Law, everyone liked it and said what a great place it was. Everybody was right; I had a great experience there.”
“When I was named dean of the UNM School of Law, I was on the law faculty of the University of Arizona in Tucson. The first UNM alum with whom I met was Jonathan Rothschild. Hearing his warm memories of law school at UNM was incredibly uplifting.”
-- Dean Kevin Washburn
A clerkship with U.S. District Court Judge Alfredo Marquez brought him back to Tucson. He then joined his father’s firm, initially pursuing his passion for criminal defense work. That gave way to divorce and personal injury work. After seven years, he found his niche in estate planning and business law. For the past 12 years, he managed the firm.
He enjoyed the challenges and rewards of practicing law. “It was rewarding whenever and however I could do justice and get a good verdict for a client, that’s the greatest reward,” he said.
He misses his law practice, but is excited to serve his community in a whole new way. Economic development without losing sight of its impact on the environment, education, followed by restoring funds for police, the fire department and transit are his immediate goals.
With barely two months in office, he couldn’t be happier. “I’ve never had so much fun in my life,” he said. “It’s even more time-consuming than being a lawyer. It’s a challenge and I love a challenge.”
And when he leaves office: “I’d like to be remembered as someone honest, forthcoming, and when mistakes are made, `fessed’ up to them and made things better. I want to leave the city in a better place than when I took office,” he said.
When he’s not working or volunteering in the community, Rothschild enjoys reading. His interests have shifted through the years, from fiction to poetry. These days he prefers nonfiction. A few years ago, he even published his own book of poetry, which intimately explored the areas of family, friendship and love.
He also enjoys working out, hiking in the areas outside of Tucson and spending time with his wife, Karen Spiegel Rothschild, and their three children.
February 22, 2012