Larry Campbell, longtime Trade Center director, retires after 24 years

It's been a while since Larry Campbell has taken a real vacation -- 24 years to be exact, says former Columbus Councilor Jack Rodgers, about the same time Campbell has served as executive director of the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.

On Thursday, Campbell celebrated his retirement. This weekend, he's headed to the beach.

"On Saturday I'm going to Destin and I don't have to come back the next day," he said before his retirement reception at the center. Campbell, who has served as director for 23 years, said he also plans to spend time with his grandkids.

Since he came to Columbus in the late 1980's Campbell said he's seen the city change. There has been a resurgence of interest in the downtown area, he said.

"The city has changed in the uptown area with TSYS and the RiverCenter," he said. "We were it for a while."

Campbell, 65, said the one thing he'd miss about working was the people.

"The advantage in a city this size is you're able to get closer to the citizens," he said.

Bob Hydrick, a former mayor, described his first impression of Campbell when he came to interview for the job.

"He came shambling in -- you know how he walks -- and I thought, my God. We're gonna hire Yogi Bear."

But he said Campbell turned out to be not only the executive director they wanted, but the executive direction the city needed.

"He brought accountability to this business that it needed," he said.

Rodgers also praised Campbell and said he would be "close to irreplaceable."

"In my opinion, he's one of the best hires this city has ever made."