Long-time councilman recovers from illness

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SEBRING — During the last couple of Sebring City Council regular and budget meetings, a familiar voice was not heard.

Sebring City Councilman John Griffin, currently the longest continuously serving member, and who has never been shy about expressing his views during a City Council meeting, was absent, recovering from a surgical procedure to treat liver cancer.

“I’m doing a lot better,” Griffin said at his store, Griffin’s Carpet Mart, on Wednesday, adding that he plans to attend the Council’s Oct. 6 meeting.

Despite having received treatment for liver cancer twice, having a mild stroke, needing a heart procedure and having an emergency appendectomy during the past three years, Griffin said, he not only plans on attending the next meeting, but will likely seek another term as Councilman next year.

“I’m like the energizer bunny,” he said.

Griffin said he likes serving the community and has worked to keep costs down for the taxpayer, while enabling the city to provide quality services, such as good police, fire and utility services.

City Administrator Scott Noethlich said Griffin’s length of service has benefitted the city.

“You know John has a lot of perseverance,” Noethlich said. “It’s beneficial to have someone on the council who has that knowledge and history.”

Griffin is the longest continuously serving member because while Councilman Bud Whitlock was first elected in 1996, he wasn’t on the council between 1999 to 2002. Since then Whitlock has served continuously. Griffin was elected in 1999.

While Griffin has continued to serve, he’s fought to overcome health challenges that stemmed partly from having hereditary hemochromatosis, a disease that causes his blood to absorb too much iron, particularly in the liver.

While recovering from his latest bout with liver cancer, Griffin has kept abreast of what’s gone on. He noted that the council reduced the tax rate while keeping services at a good level.

That typically residents don’t attend budget meetings — and that continued to be the case this year —, he said, is an indication the residents are happy with how the city is being run.

Griffin has been involved in public service during most of the time he’s lived in Highlands County. He moved to Highlands County in 1978 after having worked at the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel for 16 years.

When he arrived in Highlands County, downtown Sebring was rundown, with streets and sidewalks in disrepair. He said three banks with offices downtown each contributed $500 for a study aimed at finding ways to improve downtown. A consultant who was hired for that recommended that another consultant be hired, he said.

But, Griffin said, previous reports by consultants had never been implemented. He said he advocated that instead of hiring another consultant to issue another plan, the city should hire someone to implement previous plans.

Eventually, that led to the creation of the Community Redevelopment Agency. Griffin, who is the only living original CRA board member, said he was involved with the hiring of Pete Pollard, the first director.

Griffin said the CRA convinced the city to sell some land it owned on U.S. 27 to provide initial funding for the CRA. The first project was to improve the circle, he said.

He recalled that some antique lighting was found that had been dumped at a landfill and the CRA got revenue off of sponorships for the lighting.

Since then, millions of dollars have been spent to upgrade the downtown area, he said.

“It takes time to build up the community,” he said. “We’ve been at it for years.”


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– See more at: http://www.highlandstoday.com/hi/local-news/long-time-councilman-recovers-from-illness-20151001/#sthash.2DDq151n.dpuf

Source: Meisel, Jay. “Long-time Councilman Recovers from Illness.” Long-time Councilman Recovers from Illness. Highlands Today, 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.

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