By Leo Coughlin
This is, as the Romans would have put it, an exercise in ave atque vale - a hello to one who is, in fact, a familiar figure and a good-bye to a guy we wish would stay in the community.
But Lester Aradi, leaving as Largo police chief, will go elsewhere to a place he and his wife, Diane, have not yet decided on.
He leaves a significant legacy of great and good impact in Largo.
And it is a hello to a homegrown fellow, John L. Carroll, who will become chief of the Largo Police Department as of next Tuesday.
Those in the know realize it is a lose-win deal. A big loss because Largo really does owe Aradi - he took over a police force that was a disaster and he brought it to pride and efficiency.
Not only that, Aradi was a top man among his colleagues in Pinellas County - to the sheriff, first Everett Rice and then Jim Coats, and to fellow police chiefs. He worked well with all of them and had their respect.
Many words could be used to describe Aradi. He brought back a feeling that many of us of a certain age, who were brought up to believe that the policeman was our friend, have lost for one reason or another.
Friendly, yes; helpful, certainly; reaching out, always.
My word that defines the man I always called "Chief" is goodness. He exuded that. And when a man is of that quality, you trust him and it becomes the trust of foxhole caliber.
His successor, John Carroll, who has worked alongside Aradi almost all of Aradi's time in Largo, is - from all we know - as good as could be.
Carroll has been Aradi's deputy and one of the reasons Aradi is stepping down, in his words, is to give Carroll a chance.
And every bit of evidence demonstrates that Carroll is worthy of that chance. He has been an outstanding police officer.
Carroll graduated from Largo High School and spent several years in the Army where he got his first taste of police work in the Military Police in Germany.
Out of the Army in 1980 he signed on with the Largo Police Department and married Linda, the girl he had known in high school (they met as kids working at a local super market).
He also embarked on getting himself some education, picking up an associates degree in business administration at St. Petersburg Junior College and then a bachelor of arts in business management at Eckerd College.
They have a son, Shaun, who is a firefighter/paramedic in Largo and a daughter, Laura, who is endeavoring to work in the humble trade being exercised on this page. Carroll also includes as a member of the family their Labrador retriever. He knows how sensitive they can be and should never be left out.
Carroll's progress with the Police Department has been sure and steady and there are a couple of noteworthy criminal cases that got a lot of attention.
He was a SWAT team member, leader and commander, served as a detective in the crimes against persons division, was an acting sergeant then made a lieutenant in 1994 before being raised to captain in 1997, a position he was in when Aradi arrived in 2001.
Aradi made him his deputy in 2002 and he attended the prestigious FBI Academy at Quantico, Va., in 2004.
Carroll was involved in two prominent cases, one of them getting nationwide attention.
He was in on the investigation and clearing of the famous Hutto case, where a teenager had been murdered. Years later, a man serving in the Navy in Connecticut was finally apprehended, tried and convicted.
Carroll worked with a partner, Mike Short, on both that case and the Yunk case.
Typically of Carroll, he says, "As always, I was fortunate to be working with great partners."
One of the best things that Steve Stanton, the former city manager, ever did was to get Aradi to come to Largo from Illinois to be the chief of a department that had suffered horrible setbacks over a number of years.
Current City Manager Norton Craig has duplicated that with his choice of Carroll as the man to succeed Aradi.
Aradi got the job done.
And Carroll will, too.
Return to Current Edition