A sense of shock and surprise filled the hearts of Oakland Parkers last night and this morning when they heard that Wilton Manor’s Mayor Justin Flippen had died suddenly on his way to a commission meeting. At first it was thought that Mayor Flippen had suffered a massive heart attack. Later it was determined that a brain aneurysm was the cause of death.
Choking back tears Vice Mayor Jane Bolin shared with Living in Oakland Park how she felt about the loss of Flippen :
“Mayor Flippen’s star shined very brightly both in Wilton Manors and across the County and he was a staple at Oakland Park events. What I really personally really loved about Mayor Flippen is that he really love people, he loved his constituents, and he loved our country, and he loved our government and he was really committed to being a force for change. We are going to miss him dearly”.
Early Civic Life
Flippen was known for his bright smile and boundless energy. A native of Broward County, he was an alum of Coconut Creek High School, Broward Community College and Florida Atlantic University. Flippen’s desire to serve the community through public service began at a young age. In high school he joined the American Legion’s Boys State government program and that fully ignited his desire to be a civil servant.
In college he was involved in student government, becoming the first openly gay Student Body President. He also interned for U.S. Senator Bob Graham.
Activism and Career
Flippen’s love of people and love of serving people was evident in his daily activism.
He served the Democratic Party in many different capacities throughout the years. He was a precinct member in Broward County on four different occasions, a delegate to the Florida Democratic State Convention, and voting delegate for Florida in the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He also served his church as a member of their board of directors.
As a young man Flippen volunteered for gay conversion therapy believing it was the right thing to do. His experience led him to see that being gay was not wrong. In an interview with Channel 10 he described himself as a well-adjusted survivor of gay conversion therapy. His experience led him to speak out about gay conversion therapy and he was instrumental in having a bill passed in Wilton Manors which outlawed the practice.
As a proud gay man, Flippen, lobbied not only for LGBTQ rights but right for all. He commented to NBC news once :
“In Wilton Manors, our goal is to serve as an example for other cities across the nation on how a municipality and community can prosper from being inclusive and accepting from policy to practice. Wilton Manors is a city where whatever color under the rainbow you most identify with, you are welcomed, affirmed and respected for who you are.”
Given his love of public service it is no surprise that Flippen worked for the Florida House of Representatives and the Broward County Commission for a number of years. He was working with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Broward County tourism agency when he passed away. In the past he represented the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB on various state and county projects including VIVA Florida 500 and Broward100.
He was a member of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, and was on the host committee for the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association 2011 Conference as well as a speaker and representative at Equality Means Business forum held in Fort Lauderdale and other similar events. In 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 Flippen served on the committee for VISIT FLORIDA Cultural, Heritage, Rural and Nature.
Nearly 20 years ago the Flippen family lost Nicholas Flippen, Justin Flippen’s younger brother in a motorcycle accident in November 2001. Justin is survived by his mother and father.
In a Facebook post today, Dr. Mitch Rosenwald, an active member of the Oakland Park community shared his thoughts on Flippen’s unexpected passing : “We are all stunned by this news. Justin was an amazing leader, a caring public servant, and an amazing human being. Sending thoughts and prayers to Justin’s family, friends, and the residents of Wilton Manors”.
The People’s Mayor
Five days ago, Flippen held the launch of his re-election campaign for Mayor of the City of Wilton Manors. In an Instagram post, he wrote: “
The people and our businesses truly make our community such a special place to call home, and it is an honor to serve as “The People’s Mayor!” Thank you all to neighbors and friends who came out tonight. Special thanks to my mom and dad (love you both so much) for also being among those with me and us tonight”.
Oakland Park Mayor Matt Sparks attended the event and yesterday shared on his Facebook page :
“My heart is heavy that I share Mayor Justin Flippen has passed. We were just together a few days ago. He always said “Life is just better here” and he made it better. He was a great man and an amazing public servant. All our love goes out to his family, friends and his community”.
In November of 2018 Flippen on the seat of Mayor by one of the largest margins ever. Flippen firmly believed in the belief espoused by Thomas Jefferson that “Governments are the servants, not the masters, of the people.”
Oakland Park Plans to Honor Mayor Flippen
Oakland Park Mayor Matt Sparks has reached out the the Flippen family to offer his condolences and today issued this statement :
OAKLAND PARK, FL. (February 26, 2020) – “It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of our friend, our neighbor, and our colleague Wilton Manors Mayor Justin Flippen.On behalf of the City of Oakland Park, I offer our sincerest condolences to Mayor Flippen’s loved ones and City of Wilton Manors family.Mayor Flippen was a visionary leader and a strong advocate for his community. His dedication to improving the quality of life for the residents of the City of Wilton Manors was truly admired.The cities of Oakland Park and Wilton Manors have historically been more than bordering municipalities, we have been partners. Mayor Flippen was well loved by the City of Oakland Park because he embraced the concept of collaboration between our two cities.The Mayor was instrumental in creation of the Wilton Manors and Oakland Park Joint Climate Action Plan, the first of its kind in the nation. Under his leadership, our respective cities made a commitment to protect natural resources and embrace essential concepts such as the preservation of green space and the prioritization of smart growth.Although Mayor Flippen’s positive impacts in this community are surely too numerous to name, in the City of Oakland Park, he will continue to live on through our Joint Climate Action Plan and the human rights policies he embraced and advocated for.”Mayor Matthew Sparks, February 26, 2020
A Legacy That Will Live On
His passing is of great sadness to the residents of Wilton Manors and Oakland Park alike. Flippen was a great person and an amazing leader. His absence is already being felt, but all that he did in his short, but remarkable life, will live on through the legacy of love, kindness and caring that Mayor Flippen left behind.
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About the Author
Désirée Ávila has called Oakland Park her home for over 31 years. In addition to publishing LivingInOaklandPark.com , Désirée publishes three other blogs and has been featured in print publications, locally and abroad. Désirée was an award winning teacher for 10 years and has a doctoral level education in Educational Technology. She is currently a licensed Florida Realtor® and is committed to a high-level of professionalism and to helping others with their real estate endeavors through education. Désirée is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian.