Hundreds attend memorial service for Commissioner Kiker
Lee County Commissioner Larry Kiker was remembered Thursday as a man who would fight you tooth and nail over what he believed in, and then would take you out for a beer afterward.
The memorial service for the late county commissioner and former Fort Myers Beach mayor was attended by hundreds of friends and colleagues who came out to the Palms Ballroom at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort to pay their respects.
More than 550 people, including many of Lee County’s most influential, came to remember, cry and laugh about a man they say changed the way the Lee County Board of County Commissioners conducted business, making the elected board more informed and efficient.
Words of praise came from those with whom he worked the closest.
Commissioner Brian Hamman said he learned a lot while serving with him, thanks to Kiker’s passion, charm and wit.
“He knew when to use his sense of humor to cut the tension at just the right time,” Hamman said.
He used Kiker’s visit to Washington to testify on water quality as an example.
“He asked ‘Who’s here is for clean water? Who’s here is for dirty water? That is my technical presentation,'” Hamman said. “The congressmen all laughed and listened to everything he had to say.”
Hamman said disagreements over policy were never personal. No matter how vigorous the debate, as soon as the meeting ended, Kiker would smile and shake hands. He said his compassion and caring about the issues is what would be missed most.
“Kiker was remembered for seeking innovative and meaningful solutions to the challenges his community faced,” read the program to his memorial service.
He was credited with finding outside-the-box solutions that may have been out of people’s comfort zones and introducing the use of workshops so the board could discuss issues before they came to the dais for action. As a result, the commission balanced the budget, bought conservation land and got government out of the way of business, officials said.
Before his election to the county board, Kiker served as a town council member and mayor of Fort Myers Beach.
Current Mayor Anita Cerededa told those attending the memorial service that she saw Kiker sitting at a conference table in heaven with the smartest of angels, arguing that “That gate is really old, and maintenance is so costly and if we just built a span, like a gateway, folks can walk on a crossover, it would be so much better.”
“I expect the Pearly Gates will be recycled properly and the new gateway to heaven constructed. His hard work just might make it easier,” Cereceda said, adding that Kiker was relentless, but a collaborative thinker.
When Kiker was mayor, he sought to form at coalition of area mayors to find common solutions to the problems people faced in Southwest Florida. That coalition continues today.
Cereceda said there were disagreements along the way but, with his optimism, they were always able to find solutions – with Kiker bringing several – because even though “he wanted to win he wanted us to win.”
“Larry wasn’t just a colleague, he was one of us. He understood our viewpoint as mayors of cities because he was one,” Cereceda said. “He was our go-to guy. He wanted to see us succeed because it was his success, too. Now, you can see why those Pearly Gates are as good as gone.”
Stan Stouder said that if there was an orientation in heaven, Kiker would be thinking of ways to better organize it and make it more efficient. He also spoke about what he was according to the letters of Kiker’s name, like leader, active, respectable and relatable.
“Larry had great foresight and looked several steps ahead. If there was a decision pending, he didn’t look at the immediate response, he would look two or three moves down the road,” Stouder said, adding that Kiker worked not for the betterment of his life, but for others.
“I think of Larry as a servant leader. He was for us. It wasn’t about Larry or what he could get out of it,” Stouder said. “He made great changes because he really cared about us.”
Kiker was not only remembered for his efforts in the public arena. All who spoke said he would be missed as a colleague and a friend, which was more important than any policy or project passed.
Kiker passed away April 23, at Hope Hospice at HealthPark in Fort Myers. He was 67. Kiker was first elected to the Lee Board of County Commissioners in 2012 and reelected in 2016. He served as the board’s chairman in 2014 and again beginning in November.
Before that, Kiker served on Fort Myers Beach Town Council for six years, five as mayor.
Prior to public service, Kiker worked for large companies nationwide before moving to Fort Myers Beach where he owned a charter service for 10 years as a licensed USCG Captain and dive master. He and his wife of 14 years, Paula, moved off island to Fort Myers, but remained an integral part of the Beach business community as owners of Lahaina Realty.