Former Wilton Manors Mayor Justin Flippen died of a brain aneurysm while en route to his City Commission meeting on February 25, 2020. He was 41. SFGN asked Julie Carson, his friend and fellow commissioner to write a tribute.
A year has passed since the death of my friend Justin Flippen, and the pain is still very real. I often ask for the strength to live as Justin lived — authentically, bold and loud, quiet and tender, doing justice, and walking humbly as he did throughout the journey of his life.
Justin was a man of integrity with clear goodness of conscience. He was someone who could just as easily bow his head in prayer in the sanctuary of his Church or under the umbrella of trees in a favorite National Park.
He was a “thumbs up” kinda guy who shared words of encouragement, bear hugs, telephone calls, and a deep love and respect for family and friends. Justin was a consensus builder, a gatherer, and a man of deep faith whose commitment to Tikkun Olam or healing the world through daily acts of kindness, which was an obligation he took seriously. His passion for public service was contagious.
As mayor, Justin could be a bit pedantic. He was fond of all words that end in -ate — articulate, matriculate, subrogate, mitigate, propagate, stipulate, litigate, populate, irrigate. We shared a love for writing, good sentence structure, proper grammar and correct punctuation. From the dais, we had a measure of competition among us — who could find the misspelled word in 400 pages of Commission Agenda Backup? Was there a comma fault on page 10, third line, after the fifth word? Is it effect or affect? His efforts were not to be difficult, but rather, to ensure the record was correct, clear and accurate. Just like he lived his life.
We shared common goals about the importance of including children and their families in the richness of life in Wilton Manors. I am especially grateful for his initiative in creating the Harvey Milk Book Reading which demonstrated his love for children, education and weaving the fabric of equality into the lives of our youngest residents.
Justin took his principle of investment a step further when he initiated the “I Led the Pledge” program so youth could get a first-hand civics lesson by leading the Commission in the Pledge of Allegiance and learning about city government.
Another pillar of his work was his launch of Women’s History Month where the mayor and each commissioner have the opportunity to appoint a woman of significance to honor during the month of March. In 2020, in tribute to Justin, my honoree was his mother, Stephanie Flippen. These are just a few of the ways that Justin worked to welcome all into the fold of the Wilton Manors family.
Over the years, Justin and I had developed a powerful friendship that brought me great joy. As a colleague, I had the pleasure of being by his side and working collaboratively on policies and ordinances that brought stability, structure and fiscal health to the Island City.
I invite you to take a moment to remember that most of our important and meaningful memories, those impactful times in our lives happen in the space, in the pause, in the recess and in the stillness that exists between the fast pace of the world in which we live and the time we spend in the company of those, like Justin, who make our lives richer.
Today, Justin’s memory is flourishing and his legacy is strong. The “Pledge” program continues, artistic sculptures and stunning murals are being installed on Wilton Drive, an ordinance to increase height and density in the Transit Oriented Corridors has passed first reading, plans for a hotel are underway, and soon the Mayor Justin Flippen Park will be dedicated!
May the memory of the People’s Mayor, Justin Flippen, be a blessing.