From fighter pilot to green thumb: Larry Hines has seen it all during military, business career
EDITOR’S NOTE: As part of The Log's election coverage leading up to the March 11 city council elections, we will be profiling each candidate. Stories will appear each Wednesday and Saturday. Candidates will be profiled in alphabetical order. Read past profiles at thedestinlog.com
Those who know Larry Hines are familiar with his distinguished military career, but after flying planes over Hanoi and Vietnam, the former city councilman has become equally known for his green thumb.
"I garden," said the 69-year-old Wilmington, N.C., native. "I have, at any time, between 15 and 20 pots. I grow tomatoes, peppers, onions and lettuce."
Hines is so adept at gardening that he is proud to say he hasn't bought a head of lettuce in two years, except for during the hot months when the vegetable doesn't grow so well.
Hines and his wife, Kay, moved to Destin in 1991, after spending 20 years in the Air Force and another two decades in private business. It was during his military service that he was first struck by Destin's beauty.
"I was flying F-15s in and out of Eglin Air Force Base and flew over the area, looked down and saw the green waters and sugar white beaches and said 'wow,' " Hines said. "I actually did a low approach and got permission to come back around and flew down the beach for a minute."
Shortly after that he purchased a home on Holiday Isle.
Before attaining his Destin dream, Hines graduated from N.C. State with a degree in engineering. Hines planned to join the Air Force, serve his 4-year commitment, and then go on to enjoy life as an engineer.
But that wasn't the case, and it turned out for the better.
"This was during the peak of the Vietnam War, and they offered me a chance to be a pilot, so I got my wings and flew for 20 years," Hines said, of his days behind the stick of both the F-4 and F-15 fighters.
His military career took him all over the world, spending four years in Europe during the Cold War at the helm of nine fighter planes with nuclear bombs strapped to them ready for deployment.
While that experience sticks out in his mind, Hines said his most memorable Air Force experience came in December of 1972, when he and his team led a group of B-52s over Hanoi during a 12-day, 12-night campaign called "Operation Linebacker II."
"That's what forced the Vietnamese to negotiate the peace treaty with the president and brought the POWs home," Hines told The Log. "That was the most intense resistance that we ever saw. There were surface to air missiles and guns everywhere — we had a couple go off behind me, but we never took a hit."
After leaving his military career behind, Hines and a group of six others opened their own software company from the ground up, focusing on software that worked in conjunction with the 311 program, which allows citizens to report road hazards and other problems to government agencies. They would implement the system in Chicago, Houston and other large cities before selling the company to Motorola, where Hines spent three years before retiring in 2003.
Hines is no stranger to the political arena, having served previously on the Destin City Council after being elected in 2010. He served until 2012, when he stepped down to run, unsuccessfully, for a seat on the Okaloosa County Commission.
"I wanted to try and help at a higher level," he told The Log of his decision to step down and how it would be viewed by voters. "My goal was to try and help the city by being a county commissioner."
He said this time he’s in it till the end.
"It won't happen again," he said. "The circumstances around that were kind of unique."
Now retired, Hines spends a lot of his time giving back to the community, whether it's through a variety of organizations he serves on, such as the Main Street Betterment Alliance or the American Legion Post 296.
The man who led the effort to restore Holiday Isle’s beaches is also an avid traveler, having visited all seven continents. He is currently on a “bucket-list” trip to Australia.
"There's nothing like coming home to Destin though," he said, "being with family and friends."
VOTE SMART: Meet the candidates
If you want to hear from the candidates first hand, The Destin Area Chamber of Commerce and The Destin Log will host a candidate forum on Feb. 11 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Destin United Methodist Church. Submit questions early to moderator William Hatfield at firstname.lastname@example.org
Click on the links below to read about the other candidates: