By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM
For a public servant who normally serves the community, the benefit held for Liberty Hill Police Chief Maverick Campbell last Thursday was a reversal of roles.
A host of community members and civic leaders attended a fundraiser at Dahlia Cafe July 27 to offer support for the Chief after he and his wife were involved in a serious car crash in Austin in June.
A donation bucket placed on the hostess’ desk allowed attendees to donate to the Chief’s family. Those funds will be sent alongside a portion of the sales made that night between 6-8 p.m. to the Chamber of Commerce, which organized the event, and will pass them on to Campbell’s family.
“This is an overwhelming blessing,” said Campbell, who was talking with visitors at the table with his wife and children. “I don’t think this could happen anywhere except Liberty Hill.”
The crash, which occurred in Austin in the Campbells’ personal vehicle, hospitalized Campbell for roughly a week. Since then, he has had to scale back his day-to-day role in the department until he recovers. Lt. Jeff Ringstaff has taken on some duties in the Chief’s absence.
The scene at the restaurant was loud and overbrimming, even before the live music started.
“Our police officers have a difficult job, so tonight is all about our public servants,” announced the singer for Nameless Road, the blues trio playing that night. He continued that “every dime” of the donations made to the band that night would also go to Campbell.
Their act of support joined with those of countless others in the cafe.
Seated at tables all around were firefighters, state troopers, deputies, City Council members, the Mayor, city staff, and Liberty Hill police officers — who were serving tea and water.
One local business woman said she was there after having heard about it from the Chamber of Commerce. Another man read it in the newspaper. At least one man asked for directions from an officer who had pulled him over.
Chamber of Commerce President Rick Hall said turnout was “incredible,” though he admitted he could not be certain how many had come for the Chief and how many had come by chance.
Hall, along with Chamber of Commerce Board member Janet Widmer, were the ones to first tell the Chief that a benefit was going to be held.
“He wasn’t expecting it. And at first he didn’t want it,” Hall said, “But I told him that all that was okay, this is the least we could do for him. It really touched him.”
On Campbell’s request, the Chamber of Commerce declined to share the amount of money raised at the event.
The night also topped off weeks of aid and encouragement from the community and beyond.
Debi Johnston, owner of Dahlia Cafe with her husband Johnny Johnston, says that soon after the crash, she brought Campbell’s family a dinner of meatloaf, green beans, mashed potatoes and buttermilk pie.
“It turns out, that was his favorite thing on the menu, and I didn’t even know it,” she said.
Johnny Johnston said he appreciated the Chief’s involvement with the community and “very personable” demeanor. He pointed to the fact that Campbell had invited him onto the interviewing panel during Officer David Bonessi’s hiring process.
Campbell said he was initially unsure how to receive the outpouring of support he and his family have been receiving, because “there are those out there in worse situations.” But eventually, he said, “I realized that if I didn’t allow people to share their grace, then I’m pushing away God’s blessing.”
Last week, Campbell told The Independent that though the healing process had proved long and difficult, each day was a step toward a full recovery.
By Thursday at least, Campbell had recovered enough to have a sense of humor about the situation.
Looking at the crowd, he said, “I hope it doesn’t take another injury to get this many people out to the next Donuts with the Chief.”