Details continue to emerge Friday after one of the most connected political figures in Northeast Florida died just hours after being discharged from hospital for a stroke.
Kent Stermon was found dead in his car at the Mayport Post Office Thursday night. No foul play is suspected and the investigation is being treated as a suicide.
The Florida Times-Union’s Nate Monroe reports Stermon was the subject of an active investigation by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. First Coast News filled in further detail, including a statement from Sheriff T.K. Waters.
“Mr. Stermon was the subject of an active investigation by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, which began a few weeks prior to his death. This investigation remains ongoing at this time and will continue until its completion. As with all active investigations, there is limited information available to release at this time. However, as soon as this investigation has been completed, all applicable information will be available for release to the public,” Waters said.
Stermon, who was 50 years old, had been dealing with profound health issues before his death. He told Florida Politics on Thursday, just hours before he was found dead, that he had suffered a stroke on Monday but was upbeat.
“I am stepping about as far from politics as I can right now,” Stermon texted. “My prognosis is positive and I just got discharged from hospital but I have a ton of work to do to get healthy.”
Stermon’s passing was first reported by Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch, and confirmed by local Jacksonville news outlets.
Stermon’s influence was considerable.
As WJXT notes, “Stermon served as a board member on Florida’s State University System. According to the board website, Stermon was president of Total Military Management and also served on the Florida Highway Patrol Advisory Council and was Chair of the Governor’s Public Safety Transition Advisory Committee.”
The Board of Governors offered a statement to First Coast News about Stermon’s passing.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Governor Kent Stermon. For the last three years, Kent has served on this board with distinction. He has been a champion of higher education and student success in Florida and a longtime supporter of the University of North Florida in many ways throughout the years. The Board of Governors sends its heartfelt condolences to Kent’s family during this difficult time.”
Stermon had a unique role in regional politics, making connections particularly for Ron DeSantis’ once-unlikely path to the 2018 Republican nomination for Governor.
Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director, offered a statement on the Governor’s behalf.
“The Governor and First Lady were shocked and saddened to hear of Kent’s passing, and their prayers (and our entire office’s prayers) are with his family during this difficult time,” Fenske said Friday.
Stermon, who rented a home to DeSantis while he was in Congress, helped build a bridge to the Northeast Florida establishment in both fundraising and endorsements.
When endorsements were slow going for DeSantis, Northeast Florida pols were pivotal in changing the trend around the time of a DeSantis/Adam Putnam debate in Jacksonville. Ahead of that debate, former Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings issued a joint endorsement of DeSantis.
Cummings, Stermon’s college roommate and a friend of 32 years, was one of many shaken by his passing Friday.
“My family and the NE Florida community are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend Kent Stermon. I would ask that everyone have Christie and Abbie in their thoughts and prayers, while respecting their privacy. I don’t think Kent’s contributions to our community, our first responders and to those in need will ever be fully known or realized,” Cummings texted.
Stermon was one of the closest allies of former Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams also, with an influence over JSO throughout his term.
Mayor Lenny Curry also counted Stermon as a friend and ally, and they collaborated politically in recent years, including hosting an early fundraiser in Jacksonville for former Senate candidate Herschel Walker of Georgia.
Mayor Curry offered a comment Friday afternoon, “My heartfelt condolences to Kent Stermon’s family during this difficult time. I cannot imagine their pain and heartbreak. My thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Rep. Mike Waltz also offered comments on Twitter.
“Praying for his family during this difficult time,” he said, responding to a news story about Stermon’s passing.
This is a developing story.