He was a big man.
Larry Schultz, former mayor of Rockledge, who passed away on April 26, was a physically tall man, but he was bigger than that. He had an outsized impact on the city of Rockledge he served faithfully for 34 years, on our nation’s exploration of space, and on the family and friends he loved so well.
I met Larry early in the 1990s, early in my own much briefer time in public office. Our orbits overlapped at both the Florida League of Cities and the emergent Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory Council. I learned to depend on his emotional equilibrium, his honesty and his deep commitment to public service as a gyroscope for my own at times more frenetic, less balanced pursuit of the common good.
Despite frequent interactions and my own bullheadedness, Mayor Schultz and I never locked horns. In fact, I can only remember one instance over the decades in which I thought Larry was getting a little edge to his voice, showing a little personal frustration in his demeanor.
Larry knew his stuff. He was, literally, a rocket scientist, an aerospace engineer with substantial responsibilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. He brought that steady, methodical engineer’s approach to the diverse responsibilities of a municipal elected official and transportation planning board member. Having Larry on a committee was a way to ensure things got done the right way.
At the same time, Larry Schultz had a real appreciation for people and a welcoming openness to concerns that didn’t necessarily fit neatly in a column of figures or a graph. Among these, his passion for parks literally will live on after him through the ROC Foundation he helped establish.
As may be apparent (I hope it is), I loved and admired Mayor Schultz. Maybe it was something about that aerospace engineer thing (my dad also worked on the space program). Maybe it was his conservative style and warm but somewhat formal manner, which always made me comfortable in his presence.
Or maybe it was the sincerity of his support and praise for others.
Larry was not reluctant to compliment good work when he saw it. He wasn’t effusive about everything, nor extravagant when he offered praise. If the work was good, he knew it, was direct in how he expressed appreciation for it and was quite willing to let others receive the glory.
In fact, I cannot remember a time when Larry said “I” in a sentence involving something that he had achieved.
In the present era, where one’s reputation often seems to be made by a string of tweets, an acerbic one-liner or a compelling put-down, the memory of Larry Schultz, though he only left us last week, feels like a memory of a distance, storied past. Maybe I already miss him because I miss something more than Larry Schultz, something he symbolized and something he lived out every day.
Conscientious, self-effacing, disciplined public service.
Yes, Larry Schultz was a big man.
Dr. Scott Paine will be speaking at the FLC University Regional Summits this May. The topic? Investigations, Accusations, Confrontations: How Cities Should Respond. Learn more about this learning opportunity at http://www.floridaleagueofcities.com/university/regional-summits.