Wilton Manors mayor dies suddenly aged 41

Mayor of Wilton Manors - Justin Flippen
Justin Flippen (Photo: @justinflippen | Twitter)

The Mayor of Wilton Manors, Justin Flippen, died suddenly yesterday. He was 41.

Flippen was driving to Tuesday evening’s City Commission meeting when he became ill. He was rushed to hospital, where he passed away, according to officials. Early reports suggested he’d suffered a massive heart attack. Today, Police Chief Paul O’Connell, after consultation with the Chief Medical Examiner, said the cause of death was a brain aneurysm.

“We are very sad. Our hearts go out to Justin’s family and friends,” the Wilton Manors city officials said in a statement. “This is a horrible loss for our community.”

Flippen was elected mayor in 2018. It was a landmark election year for the South Florida city as all its elected city officials were LGBTQ. After Palm Springs, it was only the second US city to report an all-LGBTQ elected commission.

Related: This Florida town is now completely run by LGBTQ people

His sudden death has shocked the Wilton Manors community.

“Like all of us who knew him, I am devastated by the news of Justin Flippen’s passing,” tweeted Broward & Palm Beach Rep. Ted Deutch. “Justin was a fine public servant, a wonderful person, and a dear friend. My thoughts are with his family as we all mourn this tragic loss. May Justin rest in peace.”

“Justin was a great kid. I’ve watched him grow up from a 20-something legislative aide to the mayor of Wilton Manors. He was engaged. He was getting married. He was so full of hope for the future. I’m just devastated,” said Stacy Ritter to the Sun-Sentinel. Ritter is president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau – where Flippen worked.

Flippen was raised in Broward County. He gained degrees from Broward College, Florida Atlantic University and the University of Florida Law School. At FAU, he became Florida’s first openly gay student body president.

He was first elected as a city commissioner in 2008, stood unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives in 2010, and then re-elected again to the City Commission in 2014.

Related: Why the hell is Fort Lauderdale’s mayor hosting an anti-LGBTQ prayer breakfast?

“Justin was a lifelong LGBTQ activist and effective leader who found his calling in public service, most recently serving as mayor of the first all-LGBTQ city commission in Florida,” Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus President Stephen said in a statement. “He will be missed by so many people whose lives he touched, and his legacy will live on forever.”

UPDATE, 2pm ET: This article originally stated the cause of death as a heart attack. The Chief Medical Examiner later determined the cause of death to be due to a brain aneurysm. The copy has been changed to reflect this.