LaGrange community still in shock after sudden loss of Mike and Leanne Speight

Published 5:12 pm Monday, February 27, 2023

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The LaGrange community is still in shock after the sudden passing of Mike and Leanne Speight. The couple was killed in a tragic collision on Upper Big Springs Rd over the weekend involving four vehicles.

The couple was well-known in the community for their work with the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce. Mike (63) was president of then-Calumet Bank in LaGrange and later served as Market President of Colony Bank after their merger. The bank is still feeling the loss.

Joe Little, who took over as market president at Colony after Mike’s retirement, said that Mike helped the bank through some trying times. He mentioned their merger in 2019 and the pandemic as difficult moments.

“He really was kind of the backbone in LaGrange to keep everybody sane, and the bank moving forward,” Little said.

Little said that Mike, being a bit older than him, was somewhat of a father figure for him rather than just a boss while he worked at the bank.

“He was more like a father figure, but more than anything else, he was a tremendous mentor,” Little said.

Colony Bank Manager Tessia Wilder echoed that sentiment, saying Mike had also been a great mentor for her.

“He was a phenomenal mentor to me as I got deeper into my career in banking. I have had such a big support system, and Mike was integrated right in the middle.” Wilder said.

Wilder said Mike was her mentor on Leadership Troup and later after she graduated from the program and served on the chamber board.

Several members of the current chamber leadership went through an earlier Troup Leadership class in 2017.

“I personally was very fortunate to get to know Mike through our Leadership Troup class,” Chamber President Connie Hensler said. “Once I started working with the chamber, I got to know him even better in his role as a board member. He was a diplomat and chaired our Small Business Committee. He was just always so positive and always so upbeat about our community.”

Past Chamber Board President Jamey Jackson also attended Leadership Troup with Mike and Hensler. Jackson said Mike was one of the first people he began to see regularly when he moved back to LaGrange in 2016.

“We started to see a lot of each other at public functions and very quickly got to know one another,” Jackson said. “That morphed into when we did the THINC Expeditions high school apprenticeship program. Mike was one of my first partners in the program setting up high school apprenticeships, letting students come and work on Saturday mornings and work as greeters in the lobby of the bank. He was basically considered a founding member along with us of that program, which led to us serving together on the chamber board for many years.”

“Mike was just a really good-hearted guy. He never met a stranger. He always had a smile on his face. He always wanted to know you he wanted to know about you, wanted to know about your family and where you’re from,” Jackson said.

Mike wasn’t from LaGrange, but he and his wife Leanne (56) made it their home, even after retiring from the bank to switch industries and take a job outside LaGrange as director of wholesale sales at Myron Mixon Smokers.

“For someone to not have been from this area — Mike was from South Georgia, specifically Unadilla — he really was a force in the community. It’s something to be said about an individual who was not from here but left such a big footprint that you would have thought he would have been here the whole time,” Wilder said.

Wilder said Leanne was also a great friend to the community and the bank.

“She was our primary decorator for our office here at Christmas time. She really enjoyed coming here while Mike was our president,” Wilder said. “It was just a fun experience when she would come and do all the decorating for the office, even after [Mike’s] retirement.”

Leanne was also frequently at ribbon cuttings and a great supporter of LaGrange and the chamber, Hensler said.

Current Chamber Board President Brandon Eley said Mike wasn’t able to be quite as active after retiring from the bank, but he would help in any way that he could.

“He wasn’t at as many events and since he got the job at the barbecue company. But every time he was in town when he wasn’t traveling for work, he would be at an event if he was in town,” Eley said.

“He would go around and ask everybody how they were doing and get an update and tell us how things were going with the barbecue sauces, the barbecue company and everything. He was just a great guy,” Eley said.

Mike and Leanne were well-loved by their friends and colleagues.

“He is certainly someone that I considered a very good friend, and he is going to be dearly, dearly missed by not only me but the community,” Jackson said.

“There’s not enough that we can possibly say about him. It’s a tremendous loss, to say the least. Everybody he encountered, he just made everyone feel personable no matter their status, economics or anything. When you encountered him, you encountered a friend,” Wilder said.