Fort Myers mayor receives 2024 Alumni of Distinction Award

4 – minute read

Kevin Anderson, a 2003 graduate in criminal justice, sits in his office overlooking downtown Fort Myers like a man who’s comfortable with his place in the world.


He relaxes on a sofa, legs crossed, arms behind his head. He’s quick to smile, quick to laugh, warm and self-deprecating. He carries himself with the kind of assurance that comes from a lifetime of leadership.


Anderson spent 24 years in the Fort Myers Police Department before stepping into the top security position at Chico’s, where he served for 15 years before retiring.


Not one to take retirement lightly, Anderson ran for Fort Myers’ mayor and was elected in 2020. This year, he received the Florida Gulf Coast University Alumni of Distinction Award. It’s been quite a ride, he says.


Anderson grew up in Connecticut, the second youngest of six siblings. He came from a working-class family where college wasn’t an option. His father was an electrician. His mother died when he was young.


After high school, the children in his family went straight into the workforce. His sister became a nurse. Anderson and a brother joined the military.


By 1979, Anderson had left the Army and made his way to Florida. He joined the Fort Myers Police Department, where he quickly set himself apart as a leader and an achiever. By the time he reached major, he was ready to apply for chief and interviewed for the job.

FGCU grad and president
Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson was congratulated by FGCU President Aysegul Timur at the Alumni Association’s annual awards. He received the Alumni of Distinction Award.

But despite his stellar record and extensive accomplishments, Anderson wasn’t selected. That’s when he realized the difference a four-year degree would make.


“Having a degree will get a door open that doesn’t always open otherwise,” he says.

He considered the schools in the area and decided on FGCU.


“It’s a state university with a great reputation, and it’s right here in our backyard,” he says.

Anderson enrolled at FGCU, where he stepped neatly into his post as a nontraditional student.


“By the time I hit FGCU, I was 40 years old,” he says. “I graduated at 44.”

FGCU graduates
Soaring Eagles: A graduate from each college is honored for outstanding achievement or service in their professional or volunteer life. The 2024 winners are, from left: Christian Halpin, Diana Honorat, Klaudia Fisheku, Stormie Pruskauer, Madeline Tympanick and Cory Mentzer.

He worked at the Fort Myers Police Department full time while earning his degree.


On campus, Anderson formed meaningful relationships with his professors and fellow students. He made an impression on Mary Ann Zager, justice studies associate professor.


“Kevin was my favorite kind of student,” Zager says. “A lot of students are hesitant to approach the instructor and ask questions when they’re confused. They feel like they’re the only one who doesn’t understand, so they just sit there smiling and nodding. But Kevin would speak up in class. What he didn’t understand, he asked about. He’d say, ‘What is this again?’ He took charge of his education.”

Unsurprisingly, Anderson credits his time at FGCU with honing his problem-solving skills.


“A lot of my time at the university was spent looking at problems and asking, ‘How do we solve this?’ In many ways, the university was teaching us how to think.”


He brings that skill set to bear in his current role as mayor, especially as he considers one of the significant issues facing Southwest Florida: affordable housing. “It’s always on my mind,” says Anderson, whose term ends in 2026. He’s particularly interested in housing geared toward the workforce — such as teachers, firefighters and police officers. “Having affordable housing affects the long-term sustainability not just of the city but of the entire community.”

FGCU graduates
Thor and Jenny Parrish received the Eagle Spirit Award.

He also recognizes that the university’s emphasis on protecting the local environment and sustainability has had a lasting impact on his mindset. “It’s nice to have development, but we’ve got to have a balance,” Anderson says. “We want a city that’s a desirable place to live, to raise your family, to work, to play — and you can’t do that without green space.”


It’s been 20 years since he graduated, but the mayor keeps in touch with some of his classmates, like Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman and Property Appraiser Matt Caldwell. And he still carves out time to visit campus for basketball games and concerts. He attended Aysegul Timur’s installation as FGCU’s fifth president.


“I recognize the impact Florida Gulf Coast University has had on our community and will continue to have,” Anderson says. “We’re very fortunate to have this university in our backyard, and we look forward to many more great things happening at FGCU.”

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