A Farewell To Jim Berfield
By Anne McKay Garris
Former Clearwater City Commissioner and County Court Judge James L. (Jim) Berfield died of a heart attack on Friday, August 28, 2009. A memorial service was held on Tuesday, September 2, 2009, at North Dunedin Baptist Church.
A life-long active church member, Berfield's enthusiasm for helping young people and his understanding of them placed him as a teacher and guide in the church youth program. Many of the young people he taught in their teenage years continued to see him as their mentor during college and beyond, sending him their grades and asking his guidance.
He and his wife, Sue, were members of Calvary Baptist Church and sent by that church to help start Countryside Baptist, then on to Skycrest Baptist.
Jim Berfield was a member of Clearwater East Rotary Club. In following the Rotary motto, Service Above Self, he responded affirmatively to requests by Clearwater citizens to run for Clearwater City Commission at a time when many felt there was a need for a change in the political situation. His campaign slogan was simply, "I will listen!" Since this is something that had not been happening at City Hall, the slogan was heard and he was elected, serving for six years. The local newspaper even went so far as to print a cartoon of Jim with his head underwater, listening even to the fish. This tickled his ever ready sense of humor, but his actions on the Commission showed he took his promise seriously. He gave short shrift to special interest groups as he plowed his way through the myriads of decisions that came before the Commission, many of them dealing with the new organization in town called Scientology.
He was outstanding as a mediator, attacking the issues under discussion, not the person advocating them.
As a member of the political action group, Save The Bayfront, he helped defeat more than one effort to commercialize and privatize Clearwater's waterfront Coachman Park.
He was a Mason and a Shriner. Among his friends and acquaintances he was known as honest to a fault, generous, forgiving and an interesting conversationalist with a great sense of humor.
Coming from his hometown of Olean, New York to Tampa when he was 17, Berfield graduated from the University of Tampa and, after working for Occidental Petroleum, he obtained a degree from the University of South Texas' College of Law. He returned to serve as vice president of international sales at Occidental Petroleum in Texas, before moving to Clearwater to practice law here.
He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Sue Berfield; two daughters, Kimberly Berfield and Kristi McCoy; son-in-law Greg McCoy and two grandchildren, Kaitlyn and James McCoy, and a sister, Betty Wolter.
Donations in his memory may be made to USF Center for Diabetes and Autoimmune Disorders.
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