I get it, I really do: Elections have consequences, and that often means those appointed by one administration lose their jobs when the next one comes in. It happens across Florida, it happens in Tallahassee, and right now it’s happening in Washington.
But every now and then, the new administration – and the public – would be far better served keeping the person who was appointed by the last guy. One outstanding example is Larry Keefe, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. I’ve written about him before because he is an exceptional public servant who has consistently put the public interest ahead of politics. The Biden administration really should keep him on the job.
But things aren’t looking so good for Keefe and 90-plus other U.S. Attorneys. News reports have indicated that just about every Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney is being directed to resign. I’ve been critical of just about everything former President Donald Trump did and said, but I have to give him his due on this one: His appointment of Keefe has proven to be excellent.
Since he became the top federal law enforcement official in northern Florida two years ago, Keefe has avoided political actions and instead focused on keeping the public safe while working to restore transparency and the public’s faith in government.
The Public Trust Unit he established has prosecuted elected and appointed officials who abused their positions for personal gain — and those who tried to illegally influence them — and he worked diligently with state and local election officials to ensure the integrity of Florida’s recent — and stunningly flawless — statewide election.
Keefe also transformed federal law enforcement efforts into a true partnership with local agencies, including initiatives that zeroed in on gun violence in communities from Pensacola to Tallahassee to Gainesville. And he conducted meaningful outreach to the long-overlooked Black communities, earning praise all around.
If you want an idea of how nonpartisan Keefe has conducted himself and his office, look no further than some of the names – many of them Democrats, many of them prominent Black leaders – who have urged President Joe Biden to keep him. Congressman Al Lawson has put in a good word about Keefe with influential South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn, who has close ties to Biden. Arguably, Clyburn’s hard work to help Biden win the S.C. presidential primary was the key domino falling that led to Biden’s ultimate nomination and victory.
Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil wrote a column for the Tallahassee Democrat this week supporting Keefe. The Sheriff in Florida’s only majority-Black county, Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young, is another Keefe fan. So are Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey, nationally renowned lawyer Barry Richard, and prominent lawyer/lobbyist Jon Moyle Jr., who has known Keefe since they were teammates on the University of Florida Gators football team.
President Biden should not retain Larry Keefe just because these people say so. He should do it because it’s the smart thing do to.
Keefe is exactly what this new administration – or any administration, for that matter – needs in its U.S. Attorneys: Dedicated women and men who put integrity and the rule of law above all else, and who let the professional prosecutors who work for them do their jobs.
Larry Keefe is a very good man and an outstanding U.S. Attorney. This is an opportunity for the Biden administration to demonstrate how much it values leadership, character, integrity, transparency, and nonpolitical dedication in the pursuit and delivery of justice. The best reflection of that in the country would be to extend, retain, and empower Larry Keefe to continue to serve the people of the 23-county Northern District of Florida.