El Paso Southwest Senior
Vol. 9, No. 3 December 2010
Paul Geneson| Correspondent
Imagine a man pushing 60 who is heavily involved in running a busy law practice and a real estate office; a man who tells how his younger girlfriend has trouble keeping up with him; someone who admits losing his hair but still asserts that “the best years are in front of me.”
Meet Jim Scherr, 58, a 3rd generation El Pasoan who exudes an unabashed zest for life and a passion for his city. Scherr is the person responsible for taking over the most visible downtown hotel- the old Holiday Inn on El Paso Street- transforming it from an eyesore into a thriving Double Tree Hotel, a symbol of how Downtown El Paso may one day look.
Seated on the 12th floor of the hotel, with a breath taking view of the Plaza Theatre, the downtown bridges and beyond Mexico, Scherr talks of his career and his love for El Paso.
He notes that his law firm takes up two floors and employees 4- people. He also tells of having represented more than 10,000 El Pasoans in his 35 years of practicing law. He’s been featured in Forbes Magazine for his legal work and U.S. President Jimmy Carter issued Scherr a citation for energy efficiency when Scherr was a city councilman.
He responds to the idea of retirement with a defiance that betrays no anger, just a feeling he loves what he does.
“The day I stop progressing,” he says, “is the day I start dying.”
Jim Scherr is a graduate of Coronado High School, UT Austin and the University of Houston Law School.
He followed his uncle into the legal profession. His first office, on Campbell Street downtown, happened to be the building where his grandfather had hung out his shingle as a real estate agent.
Scherr takes pride in being part of an El Paso business tradition.
As if to punctuate his commitment to El Paso, Scherr talks of running for City Council two years after law school. He went on to serve three terms under three different mayors. Scherr ultimately became Mayor Pro Tem of El Paso.
A plum job as a tax attorney in Washington, D.C. was offered to him just after his election, but Scherr turned it down.
“I wanted to make a difference in El Paso,” he says. He looks back on his service to the city with pride.“I had the honor of representing El Paso,” he says.
When asked about his plans for El Paso and the downtown area, Scherr waxes elegant. Besides his investments downtown, he believes in downtown.
“I’m a big proponent of downtown,” he says, “I believe downtown is in the heart of our city. It’s the lifeblood that makes El Paso grow and grow.”
He remembers fondly the so-called Golden Era when El Paso had a “vibrant, successful downtown.”
“Everybody worked downtown,” he recalls.
And the street activity was like a beehive: “You could walk from your office to another building and do most of your business.” Scherr regards the development of his hotel as a rerun to those great days. “It became a perfect project to kick start downtown development,” he says.
He talks of the redeveloped top floor that has become an all-purpose ballroom with capability of hosting large gatherings.
The view that people remember from Teddy’s is of course, still in tact.
Scherr is especially proud of the restaurant, Fire, which serves a Don Haskin sandwich. “Don Haskins would have loved it,” Scherr says.
They also serve some very fine steaks as well as salads, gourmet meals and Mexican dishes. On the 7th floor, where the pool used to be, guests can watch the sun go down at the Sunset Terrace.
Most ambitious of all, though, is Scherr’s idea for an El Paso weekend that encompasses the city’s most signature events. In one great weekend, he says, locals could take in “Viva El Paso,” “Music Under the Stars,” the horse races, or the Mission Trail, and also go biking on the Rio Grande or hiking in the Franklins. They could visit the Union Plaza entertainment district and enjoy some shopping and a great meal.
To make his hotel work to best advantage, Scherr says, it takes a community effort. We’re one of the oldest communities in the country, but we’re not united in promoting it. “You take a community that’s organized and you’ll see success,” Scherr said.
He likes to paint a picture with words of a small county long ago where a few men gathered at a round table and planned the future of England.
“It was the most powerful country in the world for centuries.” That’s Jim Scherr’s take on the future, possible including El Paso.
“I think we’re all keeping our fingers crossed that a new day will dawn- for all of us,” he says.
And he hopes to continue being part of that bright future.