The International Joint Commission welcomed Gerald “Jerry” Acker in late July as the new US co-chair, filling a vacancy open since Jane Corwin retired in June 2022.
Coming to the IJC with a background in law, Acker has a long history of working on legal and policy matters in Michigan, his home state. An alumnus of the University of Michigan for his undergrad studies and the Wayne State University Law School, he earned his law degree in 1981. In 1993, Acker co-founded Goodman Acker P.C. alongside Barry Goodman, a law firm focused on representing injured and disabled clients in Michigan in disputes with insurance companies. He remained active as a managing partner with the firm until retiring in 2022.
“I always wanted to do public service, but life got in the way,” Acker said. “For the last 40 years, I’d been a lawyer, raised two kids, paid for their college and finally got to the point I could do public service.”
Acker said that in his years of practicing law, he has spent a great deal of his career solving problems and mediating disputes. As a treaty organization between Canada and the United States, the IJC’s primary role is to help resolve issues between the two countries in a manner acceptable to both governments. As such, Acker believes his skillset and background makes his new role as US co-chair an excellent fit.
“I’ve learned over the years how to listen to people and do what they need to make a deal, and that’s what I bring to the table,” Acker said. “I’ll never be an expert on the science and the engineering, but I can learn enough to figure out what people need to resolve problems.”
Acker has been able to get up to speed quickly thanks to support from fellow Commissioners who joined in 2019. At this early stage in his tenure, he said the areas he’s hoping to focus on include climate change and water quality issues.
Microplastics are a major concern of his given how prevalent they’ve become in the environment and even food and water supplies, as is excessive selenium. Both are issues the IJC and its boards have studied in past years.
Individual Commissioners often have specifics topics they want to look into, but these do not represent the views or priorities of the Commission until adopted by the Commission as a whole.
While this may be Acker’s first turn with public service, he has served his Michigan community in a variety of ways.
He was elected president of the Michigan Association of Justice in 2012—the largest pro-civil justice organization in the state—and remains a member of the Bar Association in both Michigan and the District of Columbia. He interned with the US Congress as a student and has worked on a variety of national finance committees in the years since. He also has served on the Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield board of directors, the Mediation Tribunal Association of Wayne County board of directors, the Hebrew Free Loan Association board of directors and as chair of the State Bar of Michigan’s Attorney Grievance Commission.
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Kevin Bunch is a writer-communications specialist at the IJC’s US Section office in Washington, D.C.