Staying in step


Genesee County attorney James Trembley poses in his Flint office surrounded by two of his passions, fishing and running. He’s holding a book called “The Long Blue Line - The Crim at 30,” a commemorative book of more than 200 photos by Flint Journal photographers to mark the race’s 30th anniversary in 2006.

Photo by Paul Janczewski

Crim board member maintains a brisk pace

By Paul Janczewski
Legal News

James Trembley started running after high school to stay in shape and to get some exercise.

Now, some 40-plus years later, the Flint area attorney is still running, competing in more than 20 Crim road races. And he also is a Crim Fitness Foundation Board member. As if that's not enough, Trembley also spends weeknights during the summer training other Crim runners.

Trembley was a solitary runner for some time, until another attorney and avid runner persuaded him to get more involved with the Crim experience as a trainer for the past dozen years.

"And I've enjoyed that," Trembley said. "It's brought me into contact with a lot of people I otherwise would not have met."

The same could be said of Trembley's law practice, and his involvement with various boards, both legal and otherwise.

He was born in Flint on February 24, 1947, and attended both elementary and high school at St. Matthew, graduating in 1965. From there he went to Western Michigan University, choosing the in-state college for its size.

Trembley, 68, graduated in 1969 with a bachelor of arts degree in political science and a minor in English. But it was time to decide on the next path of his life. Although Trembley's father was an attorney, it never entered his mind to get into law.

"He never pressured me one way or another, really, so it was my decision to make," he said.

Trembley applied to two law schools, Wayne State and the University of Notre Dame, and was admitted to both, but chose the Indiana school because he was recently married and did not want to drag a new wife to Detroit shortly after riots hit the city.

He graduated in 1972, and although he had some legal clinic work experience in domestic relations, Trembley had no idea what type of law he wanted to practice. He joined an office with three other attorneys, and his father, who shared the space and expenses.

"My practice was a very broad, general practice," he said.

He got on the court-appointed list for criminal cases, handled divorces, and whatever he could muster. In 1980, the firm disbanded amicably, and he and his father worked as partners in a firm until his father's retirement in 1989.

Since 2003, Trembley has worked as a sole practitioner in the areas of probate and estate planning, business, real estate, and limited involvement with domestic relations and personal injury.

"I like the probate court system," he said. "The civility and professional level of the lawyers there is very high."

Trembley credits his father, and the other three attorneys he first worked with, for teaching him how to succeed in the law.

"My dad was my mentor," he said. "He had a very professional way about him, very intelligent, a real smart man. His manner, civility and professionalism, I absorbed it like a sponge."

He said all four attorneys in that first firm gave him "the ingredients" to being a good lawyer.

"They all gave me something," he said.

In fact, Trembley still keeps it in the family. His secretary, for the past 30 years, is his sister-in-law, "a very motivated person" and "invaluable asset" to his practice.

As for running, Trembley said he started right after high school. He was a solitary runner, but took an interest in the Crim 10-mile race, which was gaining in popularity.

The Crim event was founded in 1977 by then-Michigan House Speaker Bobby Crim and his assistant, Lois Craig. It was initially intended to solely support Special Olympics, but has grown to much more than that over the years. Now, the Crim Fitness Foundation initiates and collaborates with other agencies in the community to promote physical activity, nutrition, and mindfulness programs.

"As it gained in popularity, I thought, 'Why not?' " Trembley said. "And I've been running it ever since."

In all, he's participated in more than 20 of the 39 Crims held.

Through the years, Trembley had come across Brian Barkey, also a local attorney and a runner, who urged him to get involved with the Crim training program, in which mentors get runners assigned to them and help them prepare for the race throughout the summer. Training is broken down into categories; some want to increase their speed, while others just train to finish. This year's event is set for Saturday, Aug. 22.

The course is challenging, and the number of runners has increased almost every year, from a few hundred in the beginning to more than 10,000 today. It's become a community event, drawing thousands of spectators who line the hilly course. The race follows by one week "Back to the Bricks," another community event which draws thousands of people and old classic cars.

In 2012, Trembley became a member of the Crim Fitness Foundation Board.

"I thought it would be a good thing because the Crim serves so many different interests in the community," he said. "And it was time for me to give back to the community."

Currently, the Crim is sponsoring adult and youth training programs, summer running clubs, and a community education initiative, in addition to sponsoring local races throughout the year. For the past two years, it has sponsored a "Tour de Crim" and "Bike Race," which follows the Crim 10-mile course.

The funding for the various Crim programs is generated from grants and from numerous institutional and individual donors.

Trembley, who lives in Grand Blanc, still runs the Crim, albeit a bit slower, but manages to train up to 25 hours per week in the summer, and about 15 miles per week during the school year.

"I think the running is what I do to stay in shape so that physically, mentally and from a health standpoint, I don't have any issues that would keep me away from working," Trembley said. It also is relaxing and helps clear the mind. "At 68, I don't care about speed so much. I'm more concerned about 'Hey, as long as I continue to run, and I'm comfortable with it and not hurt, I'm OK with where I am."

But he also enjoys his work, although he could retire tomorrow, and is reluctant to walk away from 44 years of experience, clientele and a "setting that seems to be working."

On days off, Trembley spends time fly fishing and tying flies as lures. His office is covered with drawings and paintings of fish, a few mounted beauties, and his couch is surrounded by throw pillows depicting fish.

Other free time is spent with grandchildren. Trembley has been married for 44 years to Pamela, and they have two grown children. He also is on the Flint Dine & Dance Board, and the group gets together about five times each year for dinner and "dancing the night away" to old time Rock 'n' Roll.

As for the Crim, Trembley said it remains a "marquee event" for Flint, providing the city with a much-needed summer boost. He credits the race organizers and the legion of volunteers for turning a small, local race into a nationally known event.

"But it's much more than just a race," he said. "It's a real fun time to be in downtown Flint. With everything they say about the negative aspects of Flint, this certainly is a couple of weeks where there's a lot of positive energy."

Published: Thu, Aug 13, 2015