Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman and District 3 Commissioner Larry Kiker, passed away Tuesday morning, April 23, 2019, at Hope Hospice after a short battle with cancer. Kiker, 67, served on the Fort Myers Beach Town Council from March 2007 to November 2012, serving as Mayor for four years. While serving his second term on council, he ran for District 3 County Commissioner, winning the seat in November 2012.
During his time as mayor, Kiker led a town council that would come to be recognized as one of the most effective councils in the town’s history, tackling several major projects with minimal community resistance, including North Estero Boulevard completion, Newton Park and Mound House site completion, north island beach renourishment and the county’s purchase of the Seafarer’s property.
However, Kiker’s signature accomplishment on Fort Myers Beach, the one thing he will be most remembered for by Islanders, is the Estero Boulevard renovation. As Mayor, he pushed the county to fund the early stages of the project so that it would align with the Town’s water line replacement project. As County Commissioner, he led the effort to fund the entire project, now in its second phase and due for completion in 2021.
In 2012, the Island Sand Paper spoke to Kiker about his time on Town Council and as Mayor. He was quick to credit the other members of council, rather than himself for their accomplishments. “I think our council easily demonstrated civility and responsibility for the individual, and the Town has benefited more because of that, because people work together.”
Other council accomplishments under Kiker’s mayoral leadership include the Town taking over ownership of Bay Oaks and the establishment of a Public Safety Task Force to address pedestrian safety after several Estero crosswalk accidents resulted in deaths.
While serving as town mayor, Kiker would invite county commissioners to walk the beach with him, one at a time, giving them the opportunity, in a casual, low-key manner, to envision how important the island was to Lee County and he urged his fellow council members to do the same, encouraging cooperation with the county rather than conflict, in order to reach the town’s goals.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda spoke highly of Kiker. “Larry Kiker was a force to be reckoned with. He was passionate about every project he was involved in, whether it was as a charter Captain, Mayor of Fort Myers Beach or Lee County Commissioner. He engaged 100% in his job and with the people he served.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever drive down Estero Boulevard without thinking of him. It was his determination and doggedness that made that project a reality,” Cereceda added. “You know, he would always tell people, ‘If you need something, call me,’ and people did,” she added. “Larry Kiker leaves a huge, huge gap in our world.”
While a member of the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, Kiker was known for his leadership in lowering impact fees, reducing FEMA flood insurance rates and collaborating with area mayors and Southwest Florida leadership for improved water quality.
Commissioner Frank Mann released this comment on Kiker’s passing: ““I never met a public official who seemed to enjoy the political arena more than Larry. And he played skillfully in that arena. He was a strong and effective advocate for whatever battle he was fighting. I will miss him on the commission.”
Commissioner John Manning said, “What I will always remember about Larry was his compassion and caring about all of the issues we face on an almost daily basis. His constituents were well served by him and were well represented. I will miss his analytical style of looking for answers.”
Larry Kiker grew up in Clovis, New Mexico, before earning an MBA at Northeastern University in Boston. He worked as a corporate executive with several national corporations, including IBM, Sun Microsystems and Data General Corporation, which took him to communities across the United States. After moving to SWFL two decades ago, Kiker owned a fishing charter service for 10 years as a licensed USCG Captain and Dive Master, introducing countless families to the joy of fishing together. In 2003, he and his wife, Paula, who survives him, purchased Lahaina Realty on Fort Myers Beach.
Some of the honors Kiker has received include the 2009 Outstanding Citizen Award from the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce and in 2014, the Florida Association of Counties presented him with the Presidential Advocacy Award.
Known for his soft spot for Island children, Larry and Paula launched the Putt & Pub Crawl in 2011 to benefit Fort Myers Beach kids via the Bay Oaks Recreation Center. Over the next eight years, the event would benefit a wide variety of community children’s charities. In 2019, the event management was handed to the Fort Myers Beach Alliance for Non-Profits.
On Tuesday, Islanders reminisced about their friend, Larry Kiker. “I met Larry when he first came to town and was a Charter Captain at Fish-Tale Marina,” Al Durrett said. “He has been a good friend ever since, and I learned he was a good golfer. In fact, he was probably a better golfer than a fisherman. I will definitely miss his personality and sense of humor. Everyone at Fish-Tale Marina offers our sympathies to Paula and the family.”
Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to name a Lee County Commissioner successor.
A Memorial Service will be held at 5pm on Thursday, May 2, 2019 at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott, 17260 Harbour Pointe Dr., Fort Myers.
By Missy Layfield