They say taxes are one of the few things in life you can count on, and after a long stint with the Internal Revenue System, it’s likely something federal tax judge Joel Gerber can attest to.
After completing his B.S. in business administration at Roosevelt University in 1962, Gerber earned his J.D. from DePaul University in 1965. He spent the next 19 years rising through the ranks in the U.S. Treasury Department’s Internal Revenue Service, beginning as a trial attorney and finishing as a chief counsel.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan appointed Gerber as judge of the United States Tax Court, for a term that ended in 1999. He served as senior judge on recall until he was reappointed in 2000, for a term ending in 2015. He was elected as chief judge for a two-year term from 2004 to 2006, after which he resumed senior status.
Gerber lives with his wife of 47 years, Judi, in Solana Beach, where he spends his spare time riding his carbon fiber bicycle around town (he recently completed a 100-mile cycling event in Palm Springs), making furniture, and volunteering at Mama’s Kitchen, a nonprofit that provides free meals to men, women and children living with AIDS or cancer.
- What brought you to this neighborhood?
As we approached retirement, we decided to settle in a place with good weather and, more particularly, a community that offered cultural and community activities. Solana Beach was the epicenter (sorry for the pun) of our focus. It is, geographically, close enough to fulfill all of our interests and yet far enough from the congestion that usually accompanies the cultural advantages of metropolitan areas.
- What makes this town special to you?
Solana Beach retains a small town feeling in the middle of a large metropolitan area. Whether I am going to the market or hardware store, I meet my friends and neighbors. The lack of anonymity makes for a more cohesive and responsible community.
- If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract, or improve in the area?
The very first thing on my list would be to make conditions in Leucadia, on the Pacific Coast Highway, safer and friendlier for pedestrians and bicyclists. I regularly ride my bicycle on the PCH and dread the confrontational conditions between motorists and bicyclists, which is caused by the absence of a bicycle lane.
- Who or what inspires you?
My wife, Judi, has been my inspiration for over 47 years. She is the most determined and positive person I have ever met. Her life is well ordered and her course is steady. Her stability and strength have always been a source of inspiration and comfort.
- If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?
Assuming that my wife and I would also attend, I would invite the following six people: Harry Truman, Barry Goldwater, Adolf Hitler, Mother Teresa, Harry Mayo, and my father, Peter H. Gerber. I chose these people because of their profound effect upon the 20th century and my life, personally. The name that is not well known is a young man for whom I was a mentor. My experience with him taught me much about prejudice and the human condition.
- Tell us about what you are currently reading?
I am generally reading nonfiction, including a geology textbook, Scientific American Magazine, a book on quantum theory. Intermittently, I pick up the collected works of Mark Twain when the scientific theory goes over my head.
- What is your most prized possession?
My carbon fiber bicycle is, without doubt, my most prized possession. It has provided great joy and permits me to run errands, exercise, spend time riding with good friends without leaving much of a carbon footprint!
- What do you do for fun?
Besides riding my bicycle, I enjoy making furniture, turning bowls on a wood lathe, cooking, spending time with family, charity work, and the excitement and drama of the courtroom (my job).
- Please describe your greatest accomplishment.
Being married 47 years. I do not mean to infer that being married is unpleasant or difficult, but it does take effort and thought. In order for a marriage to have lasting vitality and significance, it takes a measurable amount of long-term effort and the wish to satisfy your partner. Fifty years ago staying married was the norm and I would not have, by comparison, thought it an accomplishment to remain married. Today, however, conditions are such that people seem less willing to make an effort to preserve their relationship and the enjoyable qualities that they saw in their chosen partner. I do not know whether people are more self-centered or foolish or both, because my relationship is the most satisfying and comforting aspect of my life.
- What is your motto or philosophy of life?
Every day is gift and it is important to share that gift with others.