I thought I knew all there was to know about Tallahassee when I was accepted into LT 17. I had served on numerous boards, had volunteered whenever asked and committed my company to support nonprofits whenever approached.
But what I didn’t know turned out to be the most rewarding part of the experience; getting to know 35 strangers.
While my classmates were and still are special to me, one stood out personally just a tad bit more than the rest. He was larger than life, a man respected and in some circles feared. Intelligent, strong, opinionated and full of life and love, most people knew him by his official title. But we just called him Larry.
I was lucky to be a “Red” with Larry. He let us all know that no matter what we decided to do, even if it meant “rioting,” he would have our back.
During the following year, Larry continued to play a special role. He showed us how to rappel off a wall, instructed us in shooting firearms and took us to lunch at what he called “the biggest hotel in North Florida.” That would be the Leon County Jail.
Our class laughed together, survived losses together, learned together and grew together. More than anything else, we shared Larry together because he allowed us to be a part of his life since that first day when we all met.
To help me write this column, I asked my classmates for a few of their own personal stories. Without exception, each mentioned how Larry made them feel special – how he was always quick with a comment and full of stories only he could tell. He was our Larry – always making an impression, always making friends, tough as nails with a heart as big as the moon and a sense of humor that was one of a kind.
I remember the day clearly back in December when Larry left us. We had two days of torrential rain when I received a text from our City Manager that Larry was gone. At the moment I read the message the clouds vanished and blue sky appeared.
Even in his passing he truly was larger than life.
He was a good friend to us all and I will miss knowing, as I’m sure will my classmates, that Sheriff Larry Campbell has our back.
While leadership can mean many things to different people, for me it’s touching as many people as possible and helping them in as many ways as possible. Larry touched and helped more people than just about anyone I know, and because of that Leon County will continue to be a great place to live. And Larry Campbell will forever be my leader. – Gil Ziffer (LT 17)