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Police reform at center of Jacquelyn McMiller, Kevin Anderson battle for mayorship in Fort Myers

Police oversight has become a chief issue in the Southwest Florida city.

A bust of Robert E. Lee just left a Fort Myers Park after years of objections from Black residents. Is the city now ready to elect its first Black female Mayor?

It’s one of the questions tacitly at play in the seat of Lee County. Mayor Randy Henderson’s resignation this year to run for Congress triggered a Special Election early. Now, former police officer and current City Councilman Kevin Anderson faces longtime Dunbar leader Jacquelyn McMiller for the city’s highest office.

Anderson was the top vote-getter in an August primary. But McMiller has seen significant help flow in from the Florida Democratic Party as leaders look to boost candidates in down ballot races.

Notably, both candidates entered politics looking to shake up the status quo in a city known for its good old boy traditions, and both aimed to ensure an establishment pick didn’t just move into the open seat.

In a year where Black Lives Matter protests popped up in Fort Myers and cities across the nation, oversight of the Police Department has become a key issue in the race.

McMiller said there remains corruption in the department, where the Ethics Commission recently found probable cause to investigate Police Chief Derrick Diggs regarding credit card use.

Anderson for his part has said the city needs to shift away from policy focused on statistics and make sure the agency is seen as a public service provider. He said the department had it right in the days when he served as a major, but has gone astray in years since. He later worked as a security executive at Chico’s, a major employer in the region, and has pointed to the private sector work as a plus.

McMiller, meanwhile, long worked in public service, serving as the official court reporter in Collier County for 16 years and also worked as a child protection investigator and field supervisor with the Department of Children and Families.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
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