Former Lakeland City Commissioner Glenn Higgins has died at age 85. He was described by friends as perpetually upbeat, a good listener and genial with all.
Higgins’ longtime administrative assistant at City Hall, Chris Chadwell, said he was a more practiced listener than talker, but “he talked to everyone on either side of the stage.”
“I truly think he was not about promoting himself,” Chadwell said.
Higgins served on the city’s Planning & Zoning Board from June 1998 to December 2002 and from March 2018 until he died.
In between stints on the Planning & Zoning Board, Higgins served eight years on the City Commission.
Higgins died Monday at Lakeland Regional Health. He was born in Parkersburg, W. Va., in 1936. There he played four years of baseball, one of the loves of his life.
His four years at West Virginia University produced the greatest love of his life, Sandra Higgins. The Higginses wed in 1958 and stayed married until his passing,
Higgins served in the U.S Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel; he served two tours of duty in Vietnam.
He served as a military instructor and girls basketball coach at Lake Gibson High School from 1979 until 1997.
Former Mayor Howard Wiggs said Higgins never shot from the hip and was “a cherished friend and a joy to work with.”
“His approach was always thoughtful and wise and lucky for me he agreed with me 99 percent of the time,” Wiggs said with a laugh.
Years ago, commissioners debated the merits of the city’s red light cameras. Many drivers were loudly and publicly angry about it.
Higgins sat and listened to all he could take of the lengthy discussion. And with a volume louder than usual, he said if the commission is telling people it isn’t about the money, why is it all we’ve talked about is money?
Wiggs said it was quite uncharacteristic of Higgins. And, Wiggs said, “He had a point.”
Former Mayor Gow Fields said Higgins “loved being in service to people, especially young people.”
Fred Koehler, 40, knew Higgins well. For a decade, he sat with Higgins at Mitchell’s Coffee House downtown for coffee and conversation. He said Higgins was a great friend who seemed never in a hurry.
Koehler said he was drawing illustrations at Mitchell’s and someone from the Higgins table gave him a little grief.
“Glenn walked over to talk to me. And that was it,” Koehler said.
The informal coffee group had no name. But Koehler said he calls it the “the old men of Mitchell’s.” He said sometimes women do join in.
Duke Chadwell, Chris Chadwell’s husband, is also a member of the weekday morning coffee gatherings. He said Higglins’ “true love of people” was his greatest gift.
Kevin Cook, the city’s longtime spokesman, is another coffee club member and another big fan of Higgins. He said in an email that Higgins always invited people to the table.
Sometimes, Cook said, Higgins would “sneak to the counter and order a pastry while the group was sharing stories over coffee.”
Former City Manager Gene Strickland said Higgins was just a regular guy who moved about City Hall with military precision. He was genuinely focused on serving people, Strickland said. “He had no agenda.”
In addition to his wife, Higgins is survived by two sons and their wives, Michael and Vicki, Doug and Lydia: his grandchildren, Hailey, Greg, Alec; and his great-grandchildren Gavin, Chase and Nolan.
A celebration of life service will be held at Lakes Church Sanctuary on Friday at 1 p.m. Visitation begins at noon.