Undated Friday March, 6: Wilton Manors Mayor Justin Flippen died of a brain aneurysm last week according to Wilton Manors Police Chief Paul O’Connell. A celebration of life will be held Friday, March 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Venue Fort Lauderdale, 2345 Wilton Drive.
“The Broward County Medical Examiner’s office has confirmed Mayor Justin Flippen’s cause of death was a brain aneurysm and the manner of death was natural,” O’Connell said.
Flippen, 41, died suddenly Tuesday, Feb. 25 en route to a City Commission meeting. Flippen, who had recently announced he was seeking re-election, was elected mayor in 2018.
Flippen was the tourism project manager for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and the youngest member of the Commission.
His death sent shock waves through the community.
“He was a good friend of mine, and God, this city is going to miss someone very dear and special,” said former City Commissioner Scott Newton, his voice cracking with emotion. “It’s a sad day for Wilton Manors. Justin was someone who just believed in Wilton Manors. I just can’t believe he is gone. I don’t understand how this happened.”
Flippen grew up in Wilton Manors, attended Coconut Creek High School in Coconut Creek and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Friends described Flippen as a big, burly guy with a big smile and a big heart. They said he truly loved the city he represented.
Vice Mayor Tom Green, who abruptly adjourned an in-progress City Commission meeting at about 8 p.m., said Flippen was on the phone chatting with someone who was at the commission meeting when the mayor grew ill while driving.
The person he was conversing with called 911, Green said.
Green abruptly adjourned an in-progress City Commission meeting saying there was an emergency but that no one at City Hall was in any danger.
The city posted this announcement on its website.
“We are deeply saddened to share that Mayor Justin Flippen passed away earlier this evening. We ask that everyone respect Mayor Flippen’s memory, family members, friends, and our entire community that is mourning by allowing the City to provide official information via our website [www.wiltonmanors.com], as well as the city’s official Facebook and Twitter pages,” said Leigh Ann Henderson, City Manager of Wilton Manors.
Flippen was reportedly found in his car in the 4200 block of Andrews Avenue. Wilton Manors Police Chief Paul O’Connell said Flippen was driving his car en route to the meeting.
Green said Flippen was devoted to his role as mayor and loved talking to his constituents.
“He loves being mayor more than anyone I have ever met. Several people said, ‘I talked to him yesterday about something on the agenda,’” Green said. “He is one of those real person-to-person people. Justin just loves to talk to everyone about just about everything.”
City activist Paul Kuta said O’Connell went up to the dais to speak with the city manager during the public comments segment of the meeting and the two went into a hallway to speak privately. Moments later, Green announced the Commission would take a 5-minute break, then adjourned the meeting.
“He worked very hard. He has a full-time job and was also a part-time mayor. He was conscientious generally about both,” Kuta said. “He was a good mayor. He would have been re-elected. He was committed to this city. He was excellent proponent for the LGBT community.”
Kuta fondly remembers attending Flippen’s first campaign kickoff event for his run for the City Commission in 2008.
“I was pleased to be present at the start of his political career,” Kuta said. “I am truly saddened by his loss.”
Added Don D’Arminio, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Board, said, “We are all saddened and shocked. It’s a tremendous loss for our city.”
Flippen had recently filed to run for re-election. He was elected mayor in 2018 on a platform of experience, fiscal responsibility, inclusive community values and protecting neighborhoods’ small-town feel.
“I found Justin to be not only an amazing friend, but also a good a coach," said Tony LoGrande, Chairman of Economic Development Task Force in Wilton Manors. "He taught me if you want to get things to the table you need to bring them up as a motion. He was a man of action. Everything was about taking action, getting involved, and moving the agenda forward.”
Flippen said he wanted to strengthen public safety, protect the city’s neighborhoods and find new ways to lower water rates. Flippen was first elected to the Commission in November 2008, and then picked to serve as Vice Mayor. He also served from 2014-2018 before being elected mayor in 2018.
“I am so overwhelmed and so thrilled and so happy,” Flippen said after his victory in 2018. “I think I have a track record of being very representative of the people of Wilton Manors and their values and concerns.”
Flippen, who earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Florida College of Law, was a member of the Wilton Manors Historical Society, Friends of the Library, the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Network, the Stonewall National Museum & Archives, The Pride Center at Equality Park and numerous other homeowner associations.
Here are a few videos from a press confrience at Wilton Manors City Hall on 2/26/2020