ARCADIA — An advocate for the area’s rural community, DeSoto County Commissioner Juril “Buddy” Mansfield died Saturday, Feb. 27, from complications of a brief illness.
Mansfield, 64, had just started his fourth term as a county commissioner after running unopposed in the November 2020 general elections.
He has served on the county commission since 2008.
“That’s a long time to be a county commissioner,” said DeSoto County Judge Don T. Hall, 12th Judicial Circuit Court, and a longtime friend of Mansfield.
“He served our county well and served our community well,” Hall continued. “He will rank right up there with the best of anyone.”
Mansfield was a lifelong resident of DeSoto County, graduating from DeSoto High in 1974. He is married with six children and 11 grandchildren
He also served on the U.S. Coast Guard as a Chief Warrant Officer for 22 years.
For the past 15 years, Mansfield has served on the Arcadia Rodeo Association executive board, as well.
“Community, rodeo, family ... he never had a bad word to say about anybody,” said Hall, who serves as Rodeo board president. “You were his friend and you were important to him and he made you feel important and that will be his legacy.”
As a DeSoto County commissioner, he worked to bring in new businesses by helping to revise the county’s land development regulations.
In 2018, he voted against a rezoning request by fertilizer company Mosaic to rezone land for phosphate mining.
“He would advocate for our rural community,” Hall said. “We don’t have a lot of resources and one of his primary goals was to try to establish a pipeline to help provide the community with necessary resources and services.
“I remember him well always going to Tallahassee and spending a lot of time trying to help our community gain the valuable resources that we need.”
More recently, he also fought along with the other commissioners against adopting a mask mandate amid coronavirus — an action that was becoming more common among neighboring local governments.
County spokesperson Tara Poulton said that Mansfield will be missed.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Commissioner Mansfield,” Poulton said, “(He) was more than just a public servant to the residents of DeSoto County. He was a great man and will be missed by so many.”
There was an outpouring of support for Mansfield and his family on social media.
In a Facebook post late Saturday, Florida Senator Ben Albritton wrote, “I’m so very saddened to hear of the passing of our good friend ... and all around amazing guy.”
“I feel incredibly blessed to have spoken to Buddy a few days ago to let him know we were all praying for him and were in his corner. He was so gracious and such a gentleman. God had other plans for Buddy, and (now) he is enjoying the riches of Heaven.”
Mansfield’s death comes just a month after the passing of DeSoto County Commissioner Terry Hill, District 5, on Jan. 26, leaving two vacant seats on the board.
The expectation is that Gov. Ron DeSantis will appoint a member of the GOP to serve in Hill’s place until the next county general election in 2022.
County representatives said it is too early to say what the process will be for Mansfield’s District 1 seat.
“We will be in communication with the governor’s office this week on how to move forward,” Poulton said.
Hall said whoever takes over Mansfield’s seat is going to have difficulty “filling those shoes.”
“He was the type of guy to cowboy-up when called upon and would be the first to volunteer,” Hall said. “He was basically a one-man machine. You’d turn him loose and you know that was it — you could just forget it — he’d get it done.
“He’ll never be replaced. He’ll create a void there (on the board). Whoever comes in there behind him is going to have to really step it up because they are going to have big shoes to fill.”