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Fort Myers mayor to focus on housing, homelessness and unity in first 100 days

Posted at 11:37 AM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 11:44:28-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Newly-elected Mayor Kevin Anderson says housing and homelessness are at the top of his priority list. He says whoever he appoints as the next city manager should be prepared to tackle both of these complex issues.

Mayor Anderson says housing improvements start with bringing higher paying jobs to the city. So, more people can afford decent housing and to become homeowners, since only about 50 percent of Fort Myers residents own a home.

In addition to tasking incumbent City Manager Saeed Kazemi’s replacement with that, he’s asking for community help, with a short-term task force on housing and homelessness that he says will make long-lasting impacts.

Anderson says more shelters are a possibility, but he’s looking for more sustainable solutions.

“Just building shelters or just feeding - that’s not a strategy that’s long-term going to make a difference,” he said.

On top of housing and homelessness, unity is on Mayor Anderson’s agenda. He says the city has come a long way when he considers diversity. but he says it still has a long way to go. That’s why he’s creating a task force to tackle issues of diversity and equity in the city.

He says he remembers a very divided Fort Myers when he joined Fort Myers Police Department as an officer in 1979. It’s gotten better, but he says not all boundaries are physical.

“You can be diverse. You can give someone a seat at the table. But if you don’t let them participate, what good is it?” he asked.

Finding a new city manager is another goal, he says preferably before Kazemi retires in May. Rather than launching a nationwide search which could cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, he’d rather find someone qualified in Fort Myers.

The mayor's task forces on housing, homelessness and unity will each last six months, but maybe longer if needed. He’s looking for specific characteristics before appointing anyone.

“Come to the table, arms unfolded, minds open, and willing to hear what other people have to say, and not immediately shut things down. But to be able to discuss recommendations. Throw anything out there. See what sticks to the wall. What can work?” he asked.

As the pandemic continues to rage throughout the country, Mayor Anderson encourages people in Fort Myers to do the right thing. Social distance, wear a mask if they can and stay home if they’re sick. However, he says he’ll follow Governor Ron DeSantis’s lead when it comes to keeping businesses open and the economy going.