For the first time in recent history, a resident of Fort Myers Beach will serve on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners.
Former Beach Mayor Larry Kiker was inaugurated into office on Tuesday morning at the Old Lee County Courthouse in a ceremony before the new board held its first meeting. Commissioners-elect John Manning, Frank Mann and Cecil Pendergrass were also sworn into office.
Kiker, who was administered the oath by wife, Paula and accompanied by her father, Herbert Coontz, offered a few words after becoming official.
Commissioner-elect Larry Kiker, a Beach resident, gets sworn in by his wife, Paula, while being accompanied by her father, Herbert Coontz.
"The commitment that we need to establish is a thing called excellence. That is my commitment to this County," he said. "We need to balance the budget, invest in economic development, allow our local existing businesses to drive and get our tourism back to basics."
Kiker explained his journey around Lee County during his campaign that began 10 months ago and expressed an eagerness to start his new job.
"I've had the privilege of discovering what Lee County is all about. It's not just the beaches or sun or the preserves, it's the people, friends, family and, most of all, our kids," he said. "Our priorities have to come from municipalities and you.
"This county commission needs to establish a vision, one that we can agree to and articulate. It can only be accomplished through respect and professionalism, mostly respect for each other. I am ready to go to work today, finally."
Tammy Hall, who acted as the ceremony emcee since she was the only one of the five commissioners not being inaugurated, conveyed a positive belief in Kiker.
"In the years that I have worked with Larry as the mayor, I found no one more dedicated to consensus building and teamwork," she said "I look forward to those skills coming to the board and working with Commissioner Kiker."
Kiker and Pendergrass are the new members of the board. Pendergrass is a Fort Myers native who served 25 years in public service as a Fort Myers police officer. Like Kiker, he believes in promoting growth to stimulate the local economy.
"I am confident that the Lee County commissioners are committed to working together and look forward to serving on this commission," said Pendergrass. "I'm committed to protecting our community and our environment."
Manning begins his second consecutive term on the County commission. Before that term, he served on the board for 12 years before taking a 10-year break and has more than 30 years in the private sector to provide knowledge and commitment.
"I believe the challenges we face in Lee County are nothing more than opportunities and change. I am looking forward to it," he said.
Mann, another Lee County native, is the elder statesman on the board. His career in public service began in 1974. He served two times as a governor-appointee to the County commission as well as being elected twice.
"It will be my challenge and goal to do everything I can to instill the confidence that government individually and collectively is here for your welfare," he said.
During closing remarks, Hall stated the commission is made up of five different people.
"That's our strength. The differences that we share for one common cause, which is our community, makes a difference in our community to provide an opportunity for growth, for people to work and live here and for the hundreds of thousands of those who come and join us for a little while every year."