Former county commissioner dies on foreign trip

NORTH BEND, Ore.-- Former Coos County Commissioner John Griffith has died while travelling in Mexico, close friends of Griffith tell KCBY News.

Griffith served on the board of commissioners from 2001 to 2009.

According to close friends, the cause of death is unknown and the family is working to bring Griffith's body back to Oregon.

State Senator Joanne Verger (D-Coos Bay) said Griffith did his job well because he had a passion for the issues facing the county.

"He didn't come to issues just kind of half-knowing what the background was. Never!," Verger said. "He always had researched it and knew exactly what the background and all the options that everyone had, and when he has chosen his option, he never deviated from it."

Verger said Griffith's work as a reporter for The Coos Bay World newspaper made him thorough in his research and gave him a passion for his community.

"He knew coastal life, not just the south coast, but the entire Oregon Coast," she said. "He knew the problems that effected us and solutions for those problems."

Verger said while she at times politically differed with Griffith, she respected his views and his passion for Coos County.

"I admire his courage," she said. "So many people don't want to speak out, and they worry about being re-elected, and if they're going to hurt anyone's feeling. They just don't want to take a stand like John Griffith did, and he had to face election after election, and he didn't care. He fought for what he saw as just and fair."

Verger said it was his willingness to take a stand that caused many in Coos County to admire him.

"He had a following for many of his positions," she said. "I think people may have differed with him at times, but I don't think anyone could have doubted his sincerity."

Griffith was in his 60s, and there is no word yet on funeral service arrangements.

KCBY-TV sends its condolences to Griffith's family and friends for their loss.