John Patrick Julien, a former North Miami Beach council member and one-term state house representative, was an independent political thinker and fiscal conservative. A registered Democrat, critics often accused him of being a Republican at heart.
He died Friday from cancer at age 50.
Julien, who was first elected to the North Miami Beach council in 2005 and served in the House of Representatives from 2010-2012, was in hospice care in Hollywood with his family and friends by his side when he died.
“He fought a hell of a battle,” said his best friend, former North Miami Beach council member Robert Taylor.
Julien started having stomach pains and by early September, they were unbearable, Taylor said. He spent Labor Day weekend in the hospital and doctors found he had tumors in his stomach and liver.
As a North Miami Beach councilman, Julien wasn’t afraid to shoot down ideas he thought didn’t make fiscal sense, even if it meant sounding like a Grinch.
Facing a backlash from residents over the absence of festive winter holiday decorations, the City Council agreed to spend $20,000 to deck the streets of North Miami Beach with twinkling lights and banners.
Julien dissented. “We could probably use that money in other areas,” he said.
When he was reelected in 2007, he said, “I’m going to remain true to who I am. . . . I am not anyone’s puppet."
Born in Port-au-Prince Haiti on July 22, 1963, Julien came to the U.S. with his parents as a child. Julien, the youngest of six, grew up in New York. After getting married to his high school sweetheart, Lourdes, he moved to South Florida in the mid-1980s. He lived in South Miami-Dade at the time Hurricane Andrew swept through in 1992. His home and several other properties he owned were destroyed so he decided to move north.
“He lost everything,” said his sister Marie Joe Julien. “But he said it’s just stuff and I’ll work harder and get more.”
He moved to Kendall, and after getting divorced Julien moved to North Miami Beach around 2000. Julien remarried and was estranged from his second wife at the time of his death.
Both Taylor and Julien were process servers by profession and became friends. Taylor, who lives in North Miami Beach, said he persuaded his friend to enter the political arena.
“I’ll take the blame for talking him into it,” he said.
But Julien’s sister — who began every day with a good morning text message from her brother — said she always suspected Julien would go into politics.
“I always told him he was too honest to be a politician,” she said. “But people loved him.”
Julien first ran for a seat of the North Miami Beach council in 2003, but lost. When he tried again in 2005 he easily won his seat, despite accusations that he lied on his campaign literature about being a certified public accountant with a master’s of business administration degree in finance from New York University . A year later, as a part of a settlement to drop two misdemeanor criminal charges, he apologized for what he called “some errors contained in my campaign literature.”
He resigned a year into his third term from the City Council to run for the District 104 seat.
While in Tallahassee, Julien, a Democrat, faced criticism locally for what some critics called his “Republican way.”
“He was a no-nonsense kind of guy. It rubbed the people wrong way,” said Alix Desulme, who called Julien a mentor. “Sometimes, he didn’t always see things the way the majority saw it.”
In a statement, Florida House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, called Julien one of the caucus’ “most memorable colleagues.”
Inaccurate reports went out Thursday of Julien’s passing, prompting state representative to prematurely mourn their colleague’s passing on Twitter and in email exchanges.
But Taylor said Julien held on until Friday morning.
“He was a passionate advocate for his constituents, a thoughtful legislator, and a strong leader,” Thurston said.
On Friday, Governor Rick Scott directed the flags of the United States and Florida be flown at half staff at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, North Miami Beach City Hall and at the State Capitol in Tallahassee from sunrise to sunset on Saturday.
A celebration of life for the University of Miami fan and family man is pending.
Taylor said there will be a keg of Budweiser at the celebration at Julien’s request.
“He wants it upbeat and everybody happy that he was here,” Taylor said.
In addition to sister Marie Joe Julien, Julien is survived by his mother Talie Lubin, father Jean Julien, sister Carmel Cajuste, brothers Leslie Cajuste, Gerald Cajuste and Ewins Julien, sons Christopher and Phillip Julien and three step-children, Leu Nelson, Candace and Blake Freycenet.