Editor's Note: The following is the eulogy delivered by Karen Cox-Dennis at the June 27 memorial service for Apalachicola Mayor Kevin Begos, who passed away June 19 at the age of 63.
There’s much more to Kevin Begos, then any of us could ever really know. Although he only served our city for two years, he left a remarkable legacy. What is clear is the mayor worked towards providing people with correct and intelligent information, while we were struggling with rapid growth, loss of seafood industry and bureaucratic complications that came as a result of tourism.
His term as mayor was highlighted by many notable achievements, the most important of which was bringing fiscal stability to city government, and the plans to replace the water/sewer plant,… the list is long. He reimagined the way in which Apalachicola could flourish once again, while maintaining the historic integrity of our city. Kevin was a visionary who championed aquaculture, years ago, and worked on the Seafood Task Force. He was a steward of our magnificent, albeit threatened, natural waterways for many years. He left a sizable lexicon of published works and was an award-winning journalist and author, highly regarded in the publishing world.
Kevin put people first and garnered resources for those that needed them most. An ideal example is that he donated his entire salary to serve seniors struggling to pay their water bills. Martin Luther King Jr said: “The hope of a secure and livable world lies with the disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice and peace.” No one I’ve ever known, had a stronger sense of Justice, than did Kevin. Let us look to his most notable work, “Against Their Will,” the publication of which concluded in reparations to families that were sterilized by our government. Kevin brought a despicable history to light and helped heal the wounds of a generation.
Kevin strongly believed everyone should have a seat at the table. He championed transparency and fiscal responsibility. He spoke the truth of what had to be done for the city’s survival. Kevin fought hard for what he believed in and fought harder against injustice. He was not a career politician, but clearly understood that personal relationships drove public policy.
He worked tirelessly to connect our elected officials to the value of our city. He rallied them to help us face the reality our city was on brink of collapse and plotted specific steps it would take to get us out of trouble. In fact, he brought in expertise to help the city commission craft a strategic plan, to create pathways to collaborate successfully.
Kevin was a strong facilitator who made a commitment to serve his term and stepped up in highly purposeful ways. He was willing to stand on the front lines, not afraid to make difficult decisions. He saved the city a million dollars in the first few months of his administration and created a sound plan forward, to get us out of debt and default. He was tenacious and often obstinate in his drive to do what he thought was best. We are fortunate he made the right hires and garnered an incredible team at City Hall. Kevin’s success is ours!
Kevin created opportunities for us to gather again, united, devoid of apathy and full of pride for the city we all love. He won admirers through his good works and was that one person who would make the difference and inspire action for greater good. He always worked towards long-term solutions, instead of plastering Band-Aids, as did earlier administrations. We must follow the blueprint he laid forth, supported by a very engaged city commission and citizenry.
Kevin had a number of brick-and-mortar projects, on the table. He had two last articulated concerns. One was that he didn’t want his resignation to cost the city $6,000 for a special election. The second was that he didn’t get further along with building affordable housing. Although he didn’t live to see it, he left us a clear vision of how it could all be accomplished. He left a road map and the fuel. Kevin could see the finish line. It’s our job to see that we make it there.
Our mayor devoted his term and his life to improving the lives of others and loved doing it every day. I was honored to work with Kevin and even more honored to call him a friend. Kevin could be difficult, but he was kind. He cared for the common, hard-working individual regardless of their plight in life. He was tenacious, tough as nails and bold as brass, but in private showed a sweet sense of humanity and tremendous empathy, rarely seen in a public figure. Kevin’s politics and policies are those of inclusion. He embraced citizens of every walk of life, all persuasions of politics, religion, race, gender, the happy, the hurt, the helpless… in a word, all of us. He was in no one’s pocket, but in everyone’s corner. His time as mayor was a gift to the city of Apalachicola.
Our mayor died living his truth, one that only served to better Apalachicola. His brilliant intellect shone into the heart of our city, in its darkest hours. Kevin was able to deliver Apalachicola safely back to shore, banished apathy, made us stronger and revived our faith in ourselves, and the city we all love so well.
In Tasting the Past, Kevin’s last published book, he quotes from the 16th century Hebrew poet Israel Ben Moses Najara.
When your heart is cradled in sorrow,
and trouble today and tomorrow,
day after day,
drink the liquid of the grape, my friend
We raise a glass, to you, Mayor Begos, son, brother, friend, enemy. Thank you for gracing us with two years of solid stewardship. We will not let you down.