published Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Director brings umpire, business skils to law firm

David Hetzel is the new executive director for the Miller & Martin law firm at the Volunteer Building downtown.
David Hetzel is the new executive director for the Miller & Martin law firm at the Volunteer Building downtown.
Photo by Jenna Walker.

DAVID HETZEL

Position: Executive director for Miller & Martin law firm

Age: 52

Career: A native of Springfield, N.J., Hetzel began working at the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen while he was still in college as a freshman at Georgia Tech in March 1978. He spent 25 years with Arthur Andersen, rising to regional director of finance until the Chicago-based accounting firm disbanded. He joined Kurt Salmon as chief administrative officer in October 2003 and joined Miller & Martin in September as the firm’s second full-time executive director.

Education: An accounting graduate of Georgia State University

Personal: He and his wife have three children, ages 13, 10 and 8, and live in Flowery Branch, Ga.

David Hetzel helped direct the back office operations for one of the nation’s biggest accounting firms for 25 years and was the top administrator for a global consulting firm for the past eight years.

But the new executive director for the Miller & Martin law firm may be most proud of his 1994 achievement as an umpire for the Little League World Series.

With major league baseball on strike that year, the Little League got national attention for the first time on ESPN. The success of that series helped encourage ESPN to continue its Little League World Series coverage, even when professional baseball returned.

Hetzel says he’s glad he and other Little League umps for those games stayed out of the limelight, however.

“As an umpire, the best games are when nobody really notices that I am there,” he said.

It’s an approach Hetzel has taught many other umpires as the current umpire-in-chief of the Southeastern region. But it’s also a philosophy he has used in his 33-year career helping manage the behind-the-scenes business operations for professional service companies.

Giving pros room

Hetzel delights in helping accountants, attorneys and business consultants focus on client relations, rather than the personnel, technology, collections and other support functions in their offices.

In September, Hetzel was hired as executive director for Chattanooga’s biggest law firm — the 177-attorney firm of Miller & Martin PLLC. In his new job, Hetzel will focus on nonclient services, including finance, technology, facility management and human resources.

“It helps the lawyers to minimize their inward focus on some of these service areas to help them maximize their time with being out in the market generating business and making sure their clients are well satisfied,” he said.

Hetzel is only the second full-time executive director of Miller Martin, which was founded in Chattanooga in 1867. He succeeds Jay Markley who has been at the firm for the past 12 years.

“David’s business acumen will prove invaluable as the firm grows and continues to focus on strategic innovation,” said Scott McGinness, managing partner for Miller & Martin’s home office in Chattanooga.

With offices in Nashville, Atlanta and Chattanooga, Miller & Martin employs 177 attorneys and 157 support workers. Overseeing those operations will require a lot of travel for Hetzel, especially since he will keep his home in an Atlanta suburb to allow his 13-year-old daughter to continue to play softball and basketball at her school.

“My commute to Chattanooga or Nashville from Atlanta doesn’t seem that bad after my last job with KSA (Kurt Salmon Associates) required that I was usually go to Europe at least once a month,” he said.

Hetzel learned early about the back office operations of a professional services business when he joined Arthur Anderson CPAs while still in college in 1978.

Third chapter

Although schooled in accounting, Hetzel liked the office operations of the accounting firm more than the audit work. During his term at Arthur Andersen, the firm grew more than five-fold before the accounting firm collapsed following its involvement in the Enron business meltdown.

“It was a tough thing to see the firm go away as quickly as it did,” Hetzel said. “It was a real challenge for all of us, trying to collect receivables for a firm that didn’t exist anymore. It definitely made me a stronger person in negotiating skills.”

With Ineum Consulting and Kurt Salmon Associates merging this year, Hetzel’s next job at Kurt Salmon was being phased out this fall.

“When I learned about the opportunity here at Miller & Martin with its rich history and people, I was very impressed and thought this is place I could go for the third and perhaps final chapter of my career,” he said.

Hetzel is no stranger to Chattanooga. His brother, Dr. Donald Hetzel, is a gastroenterologist practicing with Digestive Health Associates PC since 1992.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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