Paula Kiker seeks to fill District 3 County Commission seat
Paula Kiker is running to fill the District 3 seat on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners that her late husband, Larry Kiker, left behind when he died while in office after battling cancer.
Kiker knew that she wanted to get into politics, and although this is not how she wanted to make the jump, she says she is fully vested in serving her community if given the opportunity.
* Tell us a little bit about your history in Florida/Lee County. What brought you here?
I came to Florida on a girl’s trip in January of 1995. I instantly fell in love with Fort Myers Beach. Such a quaint little town; but so much to offer. Exciting tourist community with home town flair. So, I went back home to Illinois, gave my notice and moved here in May. Found a job right away in Real Estate as a personal assistant. Not knowing anyone yet, I also worked part time at Ocean Jewels. Within the first few weeks, I met Larry at the Hooters Boat Classic parade. A few weeks later, I was reading The Observer and saw that Captain Larry wrote an article called “On and Off the Water;” it listed his phone number so I decided to call him and ask him out on our first date, he accepted and the rest is history.
After opening VIP Realty on the Beach with Bob and Isabelle Wells, I became the Property Manager, a few years later, a friend asked me to join Lahaina Realty as he was retiring and wanted me to handle his clients, I agreed. In 2003, the owner then, Jessie Titus was ready to travel so she asked if Larry and I would be interested in purchasing the company, and of course we said yes. We made a lot of changes over the next few years both from a business model and cosmetic changes, thanks to a little storm called Charley.
* When did you and Larry consider getting into politics?
In 2005, Larry and I really started to engage ourselves more into the “community,” as homeowners and business owners, we felt it was important to get involved. Larry had sold his Charter business, so he put in his application to serve on LPA and the next year he ran for Council. We had a blast. Knocking on doors, having fundraisers, riding in the parade and bringing the community back together again. He won by a landslide the Observer header read after the election. I remember going to almost every meeting the Council had for the next six years.
During this same timeframe, I was growing my business and getting very involved at the Realtor Association, volunteering for different committees, being elected as a Director, being appointed as a Florida Realtor Director and then reaching President Elect before merging with Cape Coral. The town was always a priority to me, so I worked with Town staff and the Realtor Association to bring education to the Beach. Many of the classroom events were specific to our codes, specific to making sure the Town received credits it needed to educate the public. This education brought me to earn the Realtor of the Year award in 2013.
I remember sitting at one of the meetings and the Social Seniors of Bay Oaks came before the Council and asked for new coffee maker, a new table to play cards on and a few other minor things, but the Town had no money to fund these items. I felt awful for them, so Larry and I decided we would have a fundraiser. That year we created the first “Putt & Pub Crawl,” it was a success. We raised nearly $5,000 that first year and the Social Seniors received everything they needed and more. We hosted this event for the next seven years with the help of many volunteers, each year a different recipient, but always for the Beach residents, kids and businesses. We handed it over to the Women’s Club in 2019.
* What prompted you to apply to fill Larry’s seat as a Lee County Commissioner?
I had always intended to get into politics when Larry decided he was finished. We discussed the 2020 Election and if Larry would run for a third term; or I would run for my first. When Larry passed away in April, my father asked, how would Larry’s seat be filled, he asked if I would seek his seat? I thought long and hard before I made my decision, but I knew deep down this was something I wanted to do. I jumped in with both feet, not only turning in my application to the Governor for the appointment but filing with the Supervisor of Elections to formally run for the seat in 2020. I am committed to representing the people of Lee County. These are not the circumstances I wanted for my first run for office, but we have to work with what we have.
* What issues are you most passionate about in the community, and why?
I am passionate about putting people before politics. I want to work on an agenda that affects the lives of the residents of Lee County.
Obtainable Housing: As a Realtor, every day I see the average prices of our homes go up and up. The median list price of home in our county is $250,000. This may be good for our tax rolls, but it is not good for everyone in Lee County.
Generally speaking, when you buy a home it should not exceed two and a half times your annual salary. The starting wage for a Lee County deputy is around $40,000, the average teacher salary is $44,000. Our residents cannot afford to live where they serve, teach and protect. I do not accept this. Our county can do better.
Diversification of Medial Facilities: Since 2010 we have seen nearly a 20% increase in our population. Of our nearly 750,000 residents nearly a quarter of million are over the age of 65. Lee County has 1,700 hospital beds to serve our population and tourists.
On Tuesday the governor signed the bill that does away with the need for Certificates of Need to expand hospital care in our communities. As a Republican, I know that competition and a free market system will provide better and lower cost care for everyone in Lee County.
All too often our residents are turned away because of a lack of beds for their needs. I personally know this all too well. Several times this year, Larry was unable to get a bed in a Lee County hospital when he needed care; once we were told there were 147 people waiting for a bed. The people of our community deserve better. The rate of our county’s growth and our aging population means that we have to plan for the future. It is time that we take control of our future.
Lee County can do better for the people. It is time that we worked to bring additional hospital beds and medical facilities to meet the needs of our residents and tourists.
Water Quality: One of the largest issues that we have is water quality, but the County Commission is very limited as to what it can do. The county cannot pass any ordinances regarding rivers or bodies of water. We are forced to rely on the state and federal government for the big picture solutions. In my campaign, I am going to avoid platitudes about clean water, I am going to focus on what the county can actually do to improve our water quality.
Veterans: We must do more for our veterans. I want to look at tax incentives for veterans buying homes in Lee County for the first time. They have served us, and our country and we should do more to serve them.
* do you plan to influence change in the community?
The only way to affect change in any community is communication. I don’t mean a candidate communicating a message to the voters; I want to hear from the voters. I am in the process of setting up a Citizen’s Advisory Board, made up of everyday people from across the different communities and regions of Lee County. As someone who began their career at the very beginning of the ladder; I know that the view from 40,000 feet is not always representative of the views of the average resident, and the day to day challenges that people in our community may face. I want to know first-hand what challenges the residents of Lee County face and how I as a County Commissioner can help.