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San Clemente Journal

Send For The Problem Solver!

Feb 01, 2008 09:03PM ● By Don Kindred
by Maggie Zeibak

Tempers simmer. Glances grow frosty. Grrr – we all know that feeling of righteous indignation when we perceive a travesty of justice, or experience an unfair condemnation of our actions. A few years ago, a catchphrase buzzed about and everyone was repeating, “…can we all get along”? In a perfect world, yes - but in today’s world, it’s in your dreams. We’ve been fed a steady diet of standing up for our “rights” and somewhere along the line we’ve lost the ability to compromise and often resort to juvenile tactics.

When conflict arises we immediately want to protect our interests, instantly our Me-Me-Me, attitude takes over, and we fail to listen to the other point of view. As in many cultures, we don’t want to lose face so we fight passionately to emerge as the winner, but frequently, a no-win situation reaches an impasse. And that, my hotheaded friends, is when we send for the problem solver, Bill Mills – Ombudsman.

What on earth is an Ombudsman, you ask? This is a long-standing concept we’ve borrowed from the Scandinavians, who have enjoyed a considerable amount of success by employing a “voice of reason” in their communities. This neutral person can bring the warring parties together and try to seek resolution, before the cannons are loaded and the oil heated to boiling temperature. Sometimes the dispute is resolved in a unique, creative way after gently edging each party into giving a little leeway and hopefully, in the end, the problem goes away.

Known as “Maui Bill”, his preference for colorful Aloha shirts is obvious, fell into this line of business by accident and found that he had found his niche in life. Laid off from his job as an Electronics Engineer, his career crisis presented an opportunity from a field he had not considered. With a little more time on his hands, he volunteered with a Homeowner’s Association to help resolve some major problems that were dividing the residents. Not everyone is willing to donate their time to talk to angry people, but he was, and impressed the Association so much they offered to entertain his bid for a permanent position.

So, Service 1st Mediation and Ombudsman Services was born with the goal of using mediation techniques to resolve problems and bring people together. Their mission is to engender peace within communities by solving neighborhood problems at their genesis before they get out of hand. Usually, people are so upset they are ready to go to court immediately without looking for a viable solution in the beginning before emotions cloud good judgment.

“I like to adhere to the Golden Rule,” Mills said, “Do unto others as you would have done to you,” - the ethic of reciprocity. I like to talk to people as friends and hope that they will do this rather than instantly sending papers. It’s a lot easier to dash off a nasty letter in the heat of the moment, but when you are face-to-face with your neighbor, better sense prevails and there is hope for a comprehensive solution. In my role as Ombudsman for a Home Owner’s Association, I am putting a face on the HOA as most of the time the Association is perceived as a necessary evil.”

“One of the hot items is enforcing the CC&R’s; an obstructed view for example. I look for a way around the problem and try to think outside of the box. Can we plant shrubs and bushes instead of erecting a fence? Is it possible to trim the palm fronds to see under it, rather than removing the tree that could be an expensive venture? By listening to both sides, I can encourage them to listen to each other and seek common ground. The sooner I can defuse irate and irrational behavior, the better the outcome.”

Drawing on his many years of experience, on-the-job classes for dealing with people, and the formalization of his knowledge at Pepperdine University, Maui Mills has emerged as a unique entity. He also uses his skills as a Volunteer Marriage Counselor, along with his wife of 41 years, Donna, his high school sweetheart.

“I used to work with things, now I work with people and get more than I give.” Bill went on to say, “There is so much personal satisfaction in this line of work. One of the secrets is that I can make house calls - in fact, I take my office to the problem. Sometimes, this works well when I’m handling a Real Estate or Personal Injury Settlement as we are in the area of dispute.

With many organizations using an Ombudsman, such as local Government, OC and LA Superior Courts, Eldercare, Education and Home Owner’s groups, the idea is rapidly catching on. Boards and committees needing an effective man for all seasons would do well to contact the company for a consultation. b

Service 1st Mediation and Ombudsman Services. 949/701-1791