BOWLING GREEN - Matthew Reger jogs from his car to the door of an elderly woman with her hot lunch in tow.
"Oh, it's my gentleman delivering my lunch," the grateful woman says, referring no doubt to the business suit and tie he's wearing as he delivers mobile meals during his own lunch hour from the Bowling Green City Prosecutor's Office.
The women who work at the Wood County Senior Center where he dashes in to grab the meals each Wednesday gently tease that he's the only volunteer who does so in a suit.
Mr. Reger's volunteer work, the list of which is far longer than his professional experience, prompted his selection to receive the Ohio State Bar Foundation's 2005 Community Service Award for attorneys 40 and under.
He reads once a week to first graders at Conneaut Elementary and volunteers with Martha's Kitchen, which provides meals to those in need once a week at First United Methodist Church. He's on countless committees and boards and is an elder at Bowling Green Alliance Church.
Bowling Green attorney Pamela Heringhaus, who nominated him for the award, said she was impressed with how Mr. Reger helped put together a "law school for the people" through the Wood County Bar Association, a mock trial for high school students, and other programs that teach the public about the law.
"As attorneys, I think we have this obligation to give back to the community and just to help educate people about how the law works and what their rights are," she said.
Mr. Reger, 38, says his desire to volunteer in the community is "just a big part of me."
"My dream as a kid was to live in a community where I was a big part of the community," he said. "I didn't have that as a kid. I don't know why, but that's what I wanted."
He grew up just outside Pontiac, Mich., graduated from Michigan State University, then went to the University of Toledo for law school. While still in law school, he worked part time for Bowling Green attorney Peter Halleck, then landed a law clerkship with then-Wood County Common Pleas Judge Charles Kurfess.
The experience seemed to seal his desire to make Bowling Green his home. He and his wife, Heidi, are expecting their first child next month.
"I guess I would say this is the kind of community I always wanted to be in," he said.
He became an assistant city prosecutor, then was named city prosecutor in 2000. As part of the $66,664-a-year post, he also works as assistant city attorney, representing the city planning commission and zoning board of appeals on legal matters.
Mayor John Quinn said Mr. Reger is one busy guy.
"He's amazing. He does all that stuff too. It's not like he just has his name on all of it," Mr. Quinn said.
The prosecutor's office handles more than 4,000 misdemeanor cases a year, though a few occasionally thrust Mr. Reger into the spotlight. Last year, he prosecuted Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick for drunken driving.
He took plenty of heat from the public, some of whom accused him of showing favoritism because he did not charge the justice with fleeing from police after she was initially confronted about reports of erratic driving while stopped at a Bowling Green gas station. Ms. Resnick drove away after being told by officers she was not free to go. She was subsequently seen weaving in traffic on I-75, pulled over, and cited for DUI.
Mr. Reger stands by his decision as the right one.
"It's part of people's perception - depending on what end of the law you're on - that I'm being fair, that I'm not being fair," he said. "As a prosecutor, you try to be objective, and you try to be fair. I think in the bulk of the cases, I have been."
In 2003, Mr. Reger was one of five Wood County attorneys who applied for an appointment as successor to longtime County Prosecutor Alan Mayberry after Mr. Mayberry was elected to a common pleas judgeship. Mr. Reger was the youngest of the five candidates and lost out to then-Assistant County Prosecutor Raymond Fischer.
He said he's still interested in the job but wouldn't run against Mr. Fischer, a fellow Republican who he says is "effective."
"I have, I believe, a calling for public service, and if I can be of service to the public as city prosecutor, fine," he said. "If someday the opportunity comes along to be county prosecutor, I would certainly consider it."
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-353-5972.