Willie Meggs’ announcement Monday, that he would not seek another term as Second Judicial Circuit State Attorney soon turned to reminiscence. The veteran prosecutor shared some highlights and low-lights of what will be thirty-two years in office with reporters.
Since the Second Judicial Circuit came to be in the late 1800s, it has had only six state attorneys. Willie Meggs has served longer than any of them announcing that 2016 ballot would be the first on which his name would not appear since he first took that office in 1985.
“When I got sworn in in 1985 I made a statement then – I remember it very well – that I wanted to pattern my career after Mr. Bill Hopkins who served for 30 years. And so I have exceeded the 30 years now, so I’d say ‘Mission Accomplished’ in that vein.”
When Meggs leaves office in early 2017, he’ll have served for 32 years. And during that time, he told a small group of print and broadcast reporters, he’s had his share of controversial cases. One of which involved a former Florida House Speaker who Meggs believed had abused his office.
“I make no apologies for prosecuting Ray Sansom,” Meggs insisted. “He thinks I should, but I don’t think I should. Because what he was doing was wrong. It was just wrong.”
Meggs also came under fire for not prosecuting former Florida State University Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston. That case prompted Meggs to call a news conference, the first in his long career, to defend his decision not to prosecute Winston. But Meggs says there have been far more good times than bad times on the job. Ironically, he considered one of his greatest accomplishments a case that his office lost.
“This guy had nobody standing up for him but us,” he recalled. “And I felt good about what we did for that man who was murdered and robbed by a group of thugs that we kept going. And we eventually lost it. But I’m as proud of that as I am the winning of some major cases, because it was the right thing to do.”
Who would Meggs like to see succeed him by winning the 2016 election? He said he’ll actively support Jack Campbell, his assistant state attorney and son of Megg’s lifelong friend, the late Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell.
“You now I’ve told Jack that I want to help him and I don’t know how to help him. I can be for him or against him whatever helps him the most. So we’ll work out way through that as this process unfolds.”
So far, only Tallahassee Attorney Sean Desmond, who also used to work for Meggs, has filed to run for the office. Now, looking back over all those years as state attorney, Meggs is waxing a bit philosophical.
“This truly is a great place to live. It’s a great place for us to raise our families and do the things that we want to do and enjoy what I would call the ‘good life’ and I’d like to think that in some small way I’ve been a part of making it a great place to live.”
And Meggs himself may soon be able to enjoy a bit more time savoring that good life with his wife Judy, five grand kids and a bit of horseback riding.