Letter: A reflection of the legacy of Former Mayor Edward Mussallem

Tracy Upchurch, Mayor
City of St Augustine

Dear Historic City News readers:

On Friday, November 19, at 8:00 a.m., the city flag poles will fly our Nation’s flag at half-staff in honor of former Mayor Edward “Eddy” Mussallem.  We hope our show of respect and gratitude will help bring his family comfort in a difficult time.

Mayor Mussallem served as City Commissioner and Mayor 1976 to 1980.  His passing at the age of 97 is a great loss both for his family and our community.  I was in college when Mussallem served as our mayor.  It is understandable if you do not know about the man.  As a World War II veteran, his public service began long ago, but his leadership created lasting legacies.  His public service preserved our City and affects our lives daily.

  • The zoning code including the creation of the Historic Preservation Districts was adopted under his leadership.  This continues to be the fundamental footprint that preserves our unique sense of identity.  If your love for St. Augustine includes the City’s architecture and aesthetics, you can thank Mayor Mussallem.
  • Mayor Mussallem was an avid boater and fisherman and wanted to be sure others had access to the water.  His leadership resulted in the construction of the lighthouse boat ramp.  If you use the lighthouse boat ramp to enjoy the sunrise or sunset on Salt Run, you can thank Mayor Mussallem.
  • Traffic has always been an issue.  Mayor Mussallem’s leadership led to the creation of traffic signals, the creation of sightseeing motor vehicle franchises, the designation of one-way streets, and using tourism taxes to fund city parking operations to lessen the financial burden of residents.  He was visionary in this regard.

Mayor Mussallem was an active Rotarian for 54 years.  My colleague on the City Commission, Commissioner Roxanne Horvath, remembers him as a proponent for change by his advocacy to include women.  She was the second woman inducted to the local Rotary chapter and remembers him for leading the breakage of an archaic glass ceiling.  I also find it interesting that following his retirement from public office, the person who was chosen to succeed him, former Mayor Ramelle Petroglou, was also the first woman to serve as Mayor.

This is an abbreviated list of community achievements, both public and private, by Mayor Mussallem.  I think former Mayor Ramelle Petroglou, best sums up his character when she said: “A great Mayor, a true Ambassador of St. Augustine.  He did so much more for St. Augustine outside of being Mayor”.

Little did he ever realize that his achievements would lead to becoming the recipient of the Order of La Florida Award in 1994.  The City’s highest award recognizes persons who have “unselfishly devoted their time and talent to the welfare and betterment of our citizens and heritage and who exemplified the finest qualities of citizenship and have contributed extraordinary services to the community”.

He deeply loved both the city and his family and was so proud of his family’s heritage in our community.  Our thoughts and prayers are with them.