Darien's new first family
Published 1:05 am, Thursday, November 12, 2009
It's 4 p.m. on Tuesday, not quite the end of David Campbell's second day as Darien's First Selectman. He settles into a chair in the back room of his home; over his left shoulder, twilight can be seen settling in over the Long Island Sound. Next to his right shoulder is his wife of 26 years, Anne, who is sitting on a nearby couch.
He's wearing a tie and business slacks -- it will be back to Town Hall for him in less than an hour to finish the day's business -- Anne is wearing comfortable pants and a sport vest -- she biked 45 miles earlier in the day.
Anne loves being outdoors. Earlier this year she spent 50 days riding her bicycle 3,629 miles on a transcontinental trip, raising $50,000 for ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that is often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Though they no longer own a boat, the couple used to spend a lot of their time sailing.
"We grew up with our families sailing together at the yacht club in Darien," Anne Campbell said.
Though they've known each other for the majority of their lives, it wasn't until after Anne graduated from Macalester College in Minnesota and returned to Darien that the two became a couple.
"Dave asked me to sail with him in a race that summer," Anne Campbell said. "We sailed, we won the race and then we went to the fireworks."
They were engaged three months later, and married within a year. Three years later, the couple had their first of four children.
Lindsay, now 23, is a graduate student at Hunter College; Colin, 21, is a senior at David's alma mater, Wesleyan College; Shannon, 19, is studying nursing at The College of New Rochelle and Tyler, 17, is a senior at Pomfret boarding school.
Of the four children, only Shannon currently lives at the family's home in Darien. Her three siblings each made it home for Election Day to support their father.
"It was a complete surprise," David said. "I had no idea."
Anne described the kids as "adventurous," and "philanthropic." They have traveled all around the country and the world, helping families in Cost Rica and elsewhere.
"I like to see them volunteer and do stuff," Anne Campbell said. Volunteering is a big part of the Campbells' lives. Toward the end of each year, the family gets together to choose causes to work with for the upcoming year.
Each child makes a presentation about a charity he or she wants to work with. The Campbell children look into the cause as well as hoe the money will be utilized -- it's like their own version of a budget meeting. The children can keep the same cause for more than one year, or they can pick a new one. This year, Tyler is raising money for ALS, Lindsay for breast cancer research, Colin for diabetes causes and Shannon is helping women in Central America establish their own businesses.
The parents volunteer their time as well. They've been teaching couples' communication workshops in town for more than 20 years. The program, called "The Engaged Workshop" is a day-and-a-half long, non-denominational program that started at St. Luke's. The couple teaches conflict, listening skills, forgiveness and acceptance.
"It gives you the communication tools to get you through tough times and through good times," Anne Campbell said.
"It's helped us. We recognize when we're not communicating properly," David Campbell said. "It's taught us to be willing to be willing."
Civic engagement runs deep in the Campbell family. David's father, Doug, served as the head of the Darien Police Commission when David was growing up.
"Dad taught us to give back to the community with time or money," David said.
Anne Campbell, whose maiden name was Crandall, also grew up with the notion of giving back. Her father was a volunteer firefighter and her mother was the head of Person-to-Person. Though her husband's recent election marks the couple's first foray into local politics, they also grew up with politically minded fathers. David's father and grandmother were both very active in the Republican party, and Anne's father served on the Darien Board of Finance.
But there's more to this family than a successful family business, volunteering and politics. There's also boating, bicycling, kayaking, rowing and other "Campbell Chaos," as David called it.
"We're an out-of-the-box thinking family," Anne Campbell said. "We're very outgoing -- always up to something."
When their children were younger, David -- who played football and lacrosse at Wesleyan University in the 1970s -- coached them in lacrosse. All of the children played varsity sports in high school, and the family plans to ski in Vermont and hopefully out west when the snow begins to fall.
"They'll probably have to ski without me a lot this year," David Campbell said. "But that's probably a good thing. Anne's faster than me anyway."
This new chapter in the Campbells life is exciting for the whole family.
"It's Dave's passion," Anne Campbell said. "And we're so proud of him."
Moving from the CEO of Ring's End Lumber to the head of the town's executive branch will take some getting used to, but David Campbell said he's excited for the challenge.
"It's an adjustment... I think I was getting stale at Ring's End. This has really energized me," he said.
The new energy kept him at work from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on his first day in office "' as he learned the ropes and presided over his first BOS meeting, which clocked in at a total of seven minutes long "' and sent him back to Renshaw Road to complete Day Two after the hour-long break.