‘He was just an all-in guy’

Billy Traylor, who was recently elected as the Gulf County commissioner for District 2, passed away in the early hours of November 25, surrounded by family.

Traylor, who served more than two decades as a county commissioner up until 2010, was returned to office by voters earlier this month. He had recently experienced complications relating to the treatment of his brain cancer.

A malignant tumor was surgically removed from his frontal lobe in mid-July, and he had been undergoing treatments since.

Despite his medical difficulties, Traylor had been committed to continuing door-to-door campaigning so that he might hear from the citizens he was running to represent.

Following his July surgery, he posted a statement to Facebook stating that “if I  have missed seeing you, I look forward to continuing my door to door campaign in three weeks.”

Traylor won the race for District 2 with 77 percent of the vote earlier this month. Due to his health, he had been unable to formally take his oath of office for his new term.

According to those close to him, Traylor was known to be driven in accomplishing his goals and the goals he set for the community during his previous terms on the commission.

“When Billy got involved in something, he gave his full effort to it,” said Gulf County Economic Development Director Jim McKnight, a friend of Traylor’s.

“He was just an all-in guy… He was one of the first people I met when I came to Gulf County and truly was a friend for all those years, and I’m dearly going to miss him.”

Traylor is remembered for his efforts to bring in the Gulf Correctional Institution to the north end of the county following the closure of the paper mill in Port St. Joe. The effort brought hundreds of jobs back to the area, helping recuperate some of the losses from the mill’s closing.

As a lifelong Gulf County resident, he was also vigilant in securing funding for improvements at local parks and recreational facilities during his time on the board.

“He was a hard-working commissioner who did a lot for his district,” said County Administrator Michael Hammond, who served as a commissioner with Traylor in the 1990s and worked with him for many years after.

“He was controversial, but I think overall, he did a good job. “

Hammond said the District 2 seat is now considered a vacancy on the board and that the typical next step would be a gubernatorial appointment for the role.

An exact timeline for this process is unclear at this time. The appointee, if selected, will serve until the next election cycle in 2024.

At this time, no arrangements have yet been made to celebrate Traylor’s life and legacy.

This report will be updated as more information becomes available.


Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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