Submitted by Jacqueline Chandler
The City of Attalla mayor’s office wasn’t cluttered, but it was definitely “lived in.” The desk was mounted with stacks of files and paperwork, all distinctly separated for easy access to current projects. The gentleman was a flurry of movement, answering phone calls, discussing current issues and trying to make time for the interview. On more than one occasion, he apologized, and added, “I would like to tell you that it isn’t always like this but that wouldn’t be true because it is. This is it.”
It took a while to sit and talk with Larry Means. People came in and out to discuss matters while he tried to enjoy his late lunch. Apparently, as with most of his days, things had taken longer than expected, and the mayor was trying to get caught up.
When asked what his biggest fault was, the answer came as no surprise.
“I try to do too much. I won’t say that I’ll ever change, because I won’t change. I take on more than I can handle. I am a control freak, I just think I can do everything myself, and I can’t.”
Football portraits adorned the walls as a symbol of his passion for the University of Alabama football. On the bookshelf, a single Green Bay portrait was nestled neatly.
“I picked that up at a silent auction,” Means explained. “I’m a big Brett Favre fan. He is an old school tough quarterback, and I like that.”
The rest of Means’ bookshelves were lined with family pictures, a golf picture and a few more of close friends. It wasn’t an intimidating office. On the contrary, it added to the sense of who he is. These symbols reflected his interests, the things that he holds dear.
“I’ve known Larry throughout my career and personal life,” said State Rep. Craig Ford (D-Gadsden), a close personal friend of Means. “I have known Larry to be of outstanding character, an outstanding family man, father, Christian and husband. I have always known that Larry wanted to help those who are in need. He has always donated his time and money to any youth sports and high school athletics in the community.”
Means has been in politics since 1976. He served as Mayor Pro-Tem and Mayor of Attalla. He went on to serve 12 years in the Alabama Senate before narrowly losing the 2010 election after charges emerged against him for conspiracy and bribery in a federal gambling corruption case. Means was cleared of all charges, along with the other defendants in the case.
When asked how the experience affected him, Means responded, “I tell you, I thought it would make me more skeptical of people and not trusting, I’m a very trusting person. It’s made me more cautious about trusting people because I trusted a lot of people I shouldn’t have trusted. Our biggest thing, and I say we because it wasn’t me, it was my family, our friends, a lot of faith, people praying for us…Our faith got us through it.”
Means added, “I wouldn’t want to wish that on anybody. I can see where people would think, why would you ever want to do something like get in politics again. I just do because I feel like that is what I am supposed to do. I know what it was about, I’ll keep that to myself, but I know who was behind it. It was a vendetta, and I knew I hadn’t done anything and the courts proved that.
“The government is used to winning. They have a 94 percent conviction rate, and yet all 136 charges of everybody were set free. It has never happened in the United States that the government got involved in any kind of legislation of this type.”
How did the struggle for innocence affect the Means’ family?
“It made them realize,” said Means. “I try to tell them that this is just proof that if you take your life for granted on how good you’ve got it, all of a sudden something can happen. The good Lord will get your attention. It made them realize how short life is. There is no doubt that it affected them.”
So what made Larry Means get into politics in the first place?
“My wife and I bought our first home on Stowers Hill, and there wasn’t any sewer,” he admitted. “They had septic tanks and the ground wasn’t made for it. One day the sewer came up through the ground and we couldn’t get the city to fix it. I had never even been to city hall. A guy down the street and I had gotten upset and we agreed to pay for our own. Later, we ran for office and we got elected.”
Attalla Parks and Recreation Director Charlie Rowan stated, “I’ve known Larry Means for almost all of my life. We grew up in the same church. I’ve supported him throughout his political career. The thing that jumps out about him is that he has a passion to serve the people. He has brought back funding consistently to the area where he is from.
“Senators or local politicians should try to bring money back to the community to help the people that elected them, and he is outstanding in that category. He is a genuine person, he is outgoing and he is a multi-task person, he does a lot in a day’s time. He really knows how to communicate with people, which is essential. You have to be able to communicate and make contacts to get the funding back to the area.”
Now, 38 years later, after trials that have depleted his retirement and put his family through some of the toughest times of his life, Means is running for senate again. Again the question arises, why?
Means put it quite simply.
“I know this sounds corny, but I just like to help people. God gave everyone a special gift, and everyone has something they do that is really a passion for them. This is mine, there’s no doubt about that. I never thought about running again after all the trials and stuff and people started asking and I said you know I don’t want to just sit around the house. I don’t know the meaning of just sitting around, so that being said, I just like to help people.”