The possibilities were not lost on Justin Flippen when he first started taking classes at Broward College. He had just entered a dual enrollment program that enabled him at 17 years old to begin college coursework on North Campus while he continued to study toward a diploma a few miles down the Florida Turnpike at Coconut Creek High School.

“I’ll never forget sitting in the Honors College and reading about how Parris Glendening, the governor of Maryland, had graduated from Broward College,” said Flippen. “I thought to myself, ‘I may never become a governor or anyone important, but a community college can be a great place to get the tools that I need to succeed.”

A Classroom Challenge Spurs Interest in Representational Politics

Flippen is yet to run for governor, but residents of Wilton Manors believe that he can be just as important. In record numbers last year, they elected the Broward College graduate to serve as their mayor. The vote punctuated a journey into politics for Flippen that traces back to his days at Broward College, when he was challenged by professor Lemuel Molovinsky to defend positions on American History in front of his classmates.

Justin Flippen“As someone who knew he wanted to get involved in politics, I was afraid of speaking in a public setting,” said Flippen, who left Broward College with an associate degree and a 4.0 grade-point average. “But, I had the encouragement of some amazing instructors and speech courses that would prove helpful in my journey.”

Now, Flippen builds on his history as he argues on behalf of the 12,000-plus constituents in Wilton Manors, a cozy island community in Broward County that claims to be the “second-gayest city in America.”

“I am very proud of my city, very proud of my community,” said Flippen, whose mayoral victory made Wilton Manors the first municipality in Florida to elect an all-LGBTQ City Commission. “We are a model city that is all-inclusive. It’s one of our greatest strengths. Most of our residents are not LGBT, but no matter who you are or what color under the rainbow you identify with, you are respected.”

Embracing Identity

Flippen said during his time at Broward College; he wrestled with his sexuality. He found the support to confront his challenges, for the most part, among off-campus gay and lesbian organizations.

“I wasn’t going to be ashamed of who I was,” said Flippen, who, after graduating summa cum laude from Florida Atlantic University, went on to earn a law degree at the University of Florida. “I realized I could be a person grounded in deep and abiding faith. And being gay was a much of a non-sequitur as my eye color.”

In and around Wilton Manors, Flippen is known as the “people’s mayor.” It’s a label he is proud to wear. At his full-time role with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, Flippen is a short walk from where the original Willis B. Holcombe Center once housed Broward College  district offices and classroom space. The building, currently under renovation, is a reminder of his days as a Broward College student when he was making,  if only, mental note of becoming governor. Now that idea doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

Said Flippen, who plans to run for reelection next year, “One never knows.”

Academically focused high school students determined to get a head start on college coursework while, studying toward their diploma are eligible for a dual enrollment program at Broward College. Learn how to save time, money, and earn college credits.