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One year ago, before a pandemic would change our lives forever, the Mayor of Wilton Manors Justin Flippen died suddenly of a brain aneurysm.

It was a quiet Tuesday night, and the mayor was on his way to a city commission meeting, chairing the chamber he so dearly loved.

A young man with a bright future, he had ridden the rapids of the Delaware River, climbed mountains in national parks he loved, and braved the brutal world of local politics.

Sadly, Justin was taken from us unexpectedly, by an enemy none could foresee. So it has been for so many this past year.

America built a Space Force, but instead our country and this planet were instead invaded by an invisible pathogen that has spread across continents, to all peoples, everywhere. We have lost so many, all too soon.  

Every life is precious, but let’s take a moment to recall this community leader, who lived life with a fierce passion and unbridled enthusiasm.

Justin Flippen’s life, from his early days in Coconut Creek, to his election as the mayor of Wilton Manors, was measured by adventure and enterprise.

“The People’s Mayor” was a friend to all of us, and Wilton Manors has forever named a park in his honor. We can pay him tribute in return by keeping our commitment to civic service one of the building foundations and fostering partnerships.

Aside from being mayor, Justin Flippen was the tourism project manager for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and the youngest member of the commission. Reaching out and caring for others was second nature to him. At the time, Scott Newton, our new mayor, stated “Justin was someone who just believed in Wilton Manors. I just can’t believe he is gone. I don’t understand how this happened.” Life does that to you, no matter your station or status.

Flippen grew up in Wilton Manors, attended Coconut Creek High School in Coconut Creek and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.  

Justin loved people and politics, living his life every day with grace and guts, high dignity and an honorable demeanor. There is no telling of what he might have achieved. 

Justin had aspirations that are now forever denied, dreams that can no longer be fulfilled. That is our shared loss.

In times like this, be reminded of the words from Blood, Sweat & Tears:

"And when I die / and when I'm gone / there'll be one child born, in this world / to carry on ..."

In Justin’s footsteps, future leaders will follow. They will build on hopeful yesterdays to create better tomorrows. It is what we should do, to honor the blessings of our freedom, the breadth of our diversity, the measure of our persons.

Though unfairly abbreviated, Justin lived a fulfilling life. He was a member of the Wilton Manors Historical Society, Friends of the Library, the Stonewall National Museum & Archives, and The Pride Center at Equality Park along with numerous homeowner associations. He gave all he could give.

If you would honor Justin, find your place in the sun. Carve out a place or forum where your voice is heard; where your contribution is counted. It falls upon us to keep that torch burning brightly in his honor.