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Guest Column

John L. Campbell, CPCU: Long-time Laguna Insurance Co. protects resident assets one policy at a time

By J.J. Ballesteros, Chairman, Board of Directors, Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber Spotlight is meant to highlight a unique business member of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce.

If you’re a home or business owner in Laguna Beach, then you’ve surely crossed paths with local insurance provider, John L. Campbell. John was born and raised in Laguna, raised his own family here and incorporated his own agency in town in 1982. A true original of Laguna, his first office space was a $125/month “hand-shake” deal with Bill Shields at 249 Forest Ave. (“Parking tickets were only a buck back then,” John jokingly recalls.)

John’s portfolio of offerings started in 1976 with life, health and disability insurance and quickly expanded to include property and casualty insurance. As his business grew, so did his staff. He hired a few employees, including his girlfriend-to-be-wife, Lu. John recalls he and Lu working side-by-side, long hours five to six days a week, to make the business a success. “I learned so much from her over the years and she was also an unforgettable inspiration,” John shared. The couple was married for over 36 years until Lu passed away in 2015 from lung cancer.

One of the biggest events in Laguna Beach history was also one of the biggest events in John’s career. On October 23, 1993, the Laguna Beach Firestorm ravaged the town. John lost over 20 homes that day and at one point was up at Laguna Beach High School watching six of his clients’ homes simultaneously burn. John recalls, “I spent the next three days tracking down all of my clients, handing them each a check for $10,000 to buy whatever they needed. Funny thing, no one ever complained that they had too much insurance.”

No stranger to depending on the benefits of his own industry, on Monday, Nov. 16, 1998, John’s office building burned down. Again, John recalls, “It was awful. All of my memorabilia, or as my wife would say junk, our artwork, bicycles, files and computers were lost. Fortunately, just three days prior to the fire, John had increased his insurance by $25,000. After replacing everything, remarkably, John was within $250 of having the right amount of insurance coverage. After almost 40 years in two locations on Forest Avenue, John bought his own building around the corner at 450 Ocean Avenue, where they are currently located.

A true community man over the years, John has been actively providing civil service through several of Laguna’s leading business, arts and community organizations, from the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary to the Festival of Arts (FOA) and Food Pantry. After Lu passed away, John was fortunate to have known a local artist and fellow FOA board member, Dianne Reardon. Dianne and John have now been married for almost seven years.

John isn’t just all business. Like many here in Laguna, he’s an activity enthusiast. Surfing was his first love followed by cycling. John traveled the world chasing waves, and he & Lu did several Century (100 mile) Rides together, including the Solvang Century, Amtrak Century and the Rosarito – Ensenada Ride. He also played in the Laguna Beach Men’s Summer Softball League for more than 40 years. And jokes, “now it’s safer for me to do spin classes and golf!”

I sat down with John to learn a little more.

Guest Column John L Campbell and JJ

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce

(L-R) John Campbell and J.J. Ballesteros

J.J. Ballesteros: What originally inspired you to go into the insurance industry?

John Campbell: I got into the insurance business by accident (literally!). On June 9, 1974, I was in a car accident in South Laguna. I broke my ankle, femur bone, and had a C-2 fracture in my neck, and was in recovery for three months following the accident. During that time, a friend of mine who had just gotten into the insurance industry, came by and visited. He talked me into joining his agency, opening up an office in Laguna Beach and the rest is history.

J.J.: Can you share a few of the principles on how you run your business?

J.C: There are a few things I have learned. First, take care of your clients or someone else will. Second, whenever you are talking to a prospective client, you are being interviewed – if they like what you have to say, they will do business with you based on your knowledge and expertise and not necessarily on price. Lastly, get involved with your community and help those that are less fortunate than yourself – you will be rewarded many times over in the long run. I am a two-time past president of the Laguna Beach Rotary Club and those were the best years I have had while involved with the Rotary.

J.J.: Speaking of community involvement, what are some of the non-profits you have supported over the years?

J.C.: I have been a member of the Laguna Beach Rotary Club since 1981. Through the Rotary, we have helped just about every nonprofit in town. Personally, I have been most supportive of the Laguna Beach Boys & Girls Club through both cash donations and participating in many of their events. I always gather a foursome and buy a Tee Box at the Bob Margolis Golf Tournament, coming up on August 1 – it’s not too late to get your foursome together!

I have also supported several others over the years: the Laguna Canyon Foundation, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, the Laguna Beach seniors at the Susi Q Center, the Laguna Beach Community Clinic and, one of my other favorites, the Laguna Food Pantry, whose volunteers are rock stars with what they do! I remember the Executive Director Anne Belyea telling me that my donation, which was not large, helped to feed 40 families of four for more than a month – that’s amazing.

My other love is the FOA. My wife, Lu, was an exhibitor at the festival for 32 years, so I spent a lot of time there. In 2000, the board of directors threatened to move the FOA to San Clemente. In response, a group of us campaigned very hard to prevent this from happening. We were successful in overturning the board’s recommendation and keeping the FOA and the Pageant of the Masters (POM) in Laguna Beach. Following that, I was the vice president on the board for several years and during my tenure, we ensured both would remain in Laguna Beach.   

J.J.: What types of insurance do you provide and how do you navigate through all the challenges insurance companies face today?

J.C.: Being an independent insurance agency, we have access to many insurance companies giving us a wide range of carriers. We do both personal lines (auto, home, umbrellas, fine arts) and commercial lines (property, general liability, workers’ compensation, professional liability). We have insured a range of multi-million-dollar estates and personal property items in California as well as in other states. The same thing applies to our business clients. We have business clients that are contractors, restaurants, hotels, nonprofit organizations, financial institutions, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers – the list goes on. Fortunately, each member of my staff has 25+ years of experience and has a deep knowledge base of coverage and markets.

To manage through industry challenges and changes, I prioritize keeping my staff educated. Today’s biggest challenge is brush fires. The industry has cut back on what they will insure depending on your proximity to the brush. We are always willing to review coverages, make suggestions and help people understand the details of their policy.

J.J.: Why do you believe it is important to be a member of the Chamber of Commerce?

J.C.: I first joined the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce in 1976, as an associate member and sat on the board for six years. Today, I belong to four local chambers and sit on the board of one of them. You have the opportunity to meet some wonderful and very bright people, to learn from other business owners and learn about different industries. As well, you may be able to support one another’s business ventures, network and expand your clientele. There is a true camaraderie with chamber members. 

J.J.: Is there anything else you would like our community to know about you and your staff?

J.C.: My core staff is awesome! They have been with me a long time, and they are both hard workers and work hard to retain our clients by giving them the best advice possible. Jim has been with me for 23 years and runs both the commercial and personal lines departments. Elaine does our commercial underwriting, speaks five languages and became a legal citizen three years ago. Pam, who manages all of our personal lines, has been doing it for 25+ years and really knows her business. I am very fortunate to have them all.

• • •

I am happy to say I am a client of John’s. I have also referred him to several clients who purchased homes in Laguna Beach. They have all been extremely pleased with the level of service John and his team provides. I would encourage you to call them for any of your insurance needs.

John L. Campbell Insurance is located at 450 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach. Call 949.494.1008. Visit www.jlcinsurance.com.

 

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com

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