PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Community members are mourning the loss of Panama City Beach’s longest-standing mayor, Philip Griffitts Sr., who served on the council for 18 years from 1982 to 2000.
Griffitts was 75 years old when he passed away on Thursday from COVID-19 complications.
On Friday, the Panama City Beach flag was flying at half-staff in front of PCB City Hall in remembrance of Griffitts.
“He’s made us a better place,” said former mayor and long-time friend of Griffitts, Mike Thomas. “Philip, over the years has been one of the most extraordinary people that I’ve ever known.”
Thomas, who also worked with Griffitts on the council, said he was a strong leader who paved the way for what Panama City Beach is today.
“He worked tirelessly to make things better,” Thomas said. “It was a blessing to have known him. He’ll be missed.”
Former Panama City Beach city manager, Richard Jackson, said Griffitts was instrumental in shaping the area.
“He was dedicated to the community,” Jackson said. “He wanted to see everybody do well.”
More than that, they said Griffitts was a good friend who was devoted to his family.
“He loved his family,” Thomas said. “The only time he left them was to go play with the rest of us and give us a good time.”
Griffitts’s son, Bay County Commissioner Philip “Griff” Griffitts Jr., said “[his] father set an example to [him] over the years of how to be brave in business, treat employees like family, and always maintain a sense of humor. He was an honorable man who helped, along with many others who have already passed, pave the way for all of us to live in paradise and raise our children here. He was a doting husband, a loving father and a wonderful grandfather, and he will be dearly, dearly missed.”
Thomas and Jackson said it’s a tough loss for the entire community.
“I’m going to miss him, the community is going to miss him,” Jackson said.
“Philip will always be the face of Panama City Beach,” Thomas said. “He did us a good job.”
Congressman Neal Dunn also responded to the loss, writing over social media:
“I’m deeply saddened by the loss of my friend Philip Griffitts. Philip was an outstanding man that contributed a great deal to the community. The current Panama City Beach Mayor Mark Sheldon said best: “Panama City Beach would not be what it is today without the amazing vision and leadership of Mr. Griffitts.” Philip will truly be missed. My deepest condolences to the Griffitts family. God bless you.”
Funeral arrangements are still being made through Southerland funeral home.