Florissant City Attorney receives "Municipal Lawyer of the Year" award.
Last month, Florissant native and Florissant city attorney received another honor for his legal resume. "Best Lawyers in America," a lawyer referral directory, named John M. Hessel the 2011 Municipal Lawyer of the Year for the St. Louis metro area.
"The recognition from my peers is a great highlight," Hessel said when asked about the rewarding experiences he's had in his career.
He was selected to receive the prestigious honor through a voting process that surveyed lawyers in the area who specialized in municipal law, according to "Best Lawyers" editor Daniel Lutz.
This is not the first honor Hessel has received in his career. His other honors include Citizen of the Year awards from Kirkwood, where he is also the city attorney, and Des Peres; a Proclamation from the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis for Civic Duty; and a Distinguished Alumni Merit Award from Southeast Missouri State University, where he received his bachelor's degree in political science and history.
"We are so proud of John for being named Municipal Lawyer of the Year," said Julie Lilly, Chief Operating Officer for Lewis, Rice and Fingersh, where Hessel serves as partner of the firm. "John has been aptly serving St. Louis communities like Florissant, his hometown, for more than 30 years. He is a well-respected attorney here at the firm as well as within the community and we believe he is very deserving of this recognition."
Hessel has been the city attorney for Florissant since 1988. He graduated from the St. Louis University School of Law in 1977 and soon after was hired by then-Florissant Mayor James J. Eagan as the assistant prosecuting attorney for the city, a job that he held until 1985.
One of Hessel's most recent victories as city attorney came in September, when he got the state of Missouri to agree to pay Florissant $813,089 after failing to distribute adequate tax proceeds to the city.
"He's an excellent attorney," said Mayor Robert Lowery. "He's always been there as someone who's been an advisor in more ways than just legal."
Hessel lived in Florissant from 1958 to 1980 and proudly calls the city his hometown.
"I have had many rewarding experiences as an attorney," he said. "Certainly, representing my hometown is among the best."
In addition to his duties as city attorney for Florissant and Kirkwood, Hessel assists in representing Crestwood and Wildwood in his role as partner of Lewis, Rice and Fingersh. He worked for the law firm of Evans, Hoemeke and Casey from 1977 until 1982, when the firm merged with Lewis, Rice and Fingersh.
Karen Gass, who has been Hessel's assistant since 1991, describes Hessel as both polite and professional.
"I've learned a lot from him," Gass said. "He's been a great inspiration and just a wonderful person to work for."
When not working or out on the golf course, Hessel enjoys spending time with his family. He is married and has three grown children, in addition to one granddaughter. He played football in college and enjoys visiting his daughter Katherine at Texas Christian University to attend football games.
Gass says that her experiences with Hessel have taught her not only about the legal field but also about life in general. She was only 21 when she went to work for him, and she says her family "grew up with him."
"He's taught me a lot - not just work-wise," she said. "I've gained a lot personally from working with him."