Kent Stermon, a longtime friend of Gov. Ron DeSantis who served on the governor’s transition team and was a current member of the board that oversees the state’s public universities, was found dead Thursday evening, according to police.
The Atlantic Beach Police Department in Duval County said Stermon was found dead in his truck in the parking lot of a post office just outside of Jacksonville. The investigation is being worked as a suicide, police said, and they do not suspect foul play. He was 50 years old.
In a statement Friday, Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said that 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.”
The sheriff’s office has not released any information about the nature of the potential crimes involved in the investigation.
“As with all active investigations, there is limited information available to release at this time,” Waters’ statement read. “However, as soon as this investigation has been completed, all applicable information will be available for release to the public.”
Stermon was well-known in Florida political circles, in part because he was one of the few people in DeSantis’ orbit who had been by his side since the beginning of the governor’s political career.
In a 2018 interview with the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald, Stermon said he and DeSantis became friends through mutual social circles in Jacksonville nearly 10 years prior, before DeSantis had run for Congress. He helped in DeSantis’ campaigns as a “labor of love,” he said.
“He trusts me to do it right,” Stermon said at the time, which was shortly after DeSantis had been elected as governor. “He has so many people coming after him right now. I don’t want anything from him.”
A Republican political donor, Stermon contributed to a slate of candidates but gave more to DeSantis than any other state candidate, with checks totaling about $60,000 for both campaigns for governor. He has also contributed thousands to federal races.
“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,” DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske said.
The governor’s office said it had “no knowledge” of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office investigation into Stermon.
Stermon was the president of Total Military Management, a company that contracts with the federal government to relocate military members. A statement the company posted on Facebook called Stermon “a beloved husband and father, and a dedicated leader, mentor and friend.”
In 2019, DeSantis appointed Stermon to the Board of Governors, which oversees Florida’s public universities. On Friday, the Board of Governors said Stermon served the board “with distinction” and “has been a champion of higher education and student success in Florida and a long-time supporter of the University of North Florida in many ways throughout the years.”
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According to his biography on the state university system’s website, Stermon also had served on several nonprofit boards, including the Boys and Girls Club and Dreams Come True, a Jacksonville organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.
If you need help
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or chat with someone online at 988lifeline.org.