A 'trailblazer' and a 'soldier': Tributes paid to Broward's first openly gay mayor Ken Keechl
Community leaders in South Florida have paid tribute to former Broward County Mayor and the first openly gay man elected to the county commission, Ken Keechl. He died Friday after a battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 60.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz wrote on Twitter that she was "heartbroken to hear of the passing of my friend Ken Keechl... He spent his career fighting for LGBTQ+ and human rights. May his memory be for a blessing."
Keechl, an attorney, was elected to the commission in 2006, defeating incumbent James Scott. He served one term as mayor for a year. The county's mayor title rotates and is a largely ceremonial title.
“I ran for the commission not as a gay man but as a fiscal conservative and as someone concerned about the environment, but I am aware of the historic nature of becoming mayor and am proud of it,” Keechl told the Sun Sentinel in 2009.
As commissioner, Keechl pushed to broaden the county’s anti-discrimination laws to include transgender residents. He also wrote resolutions to allow gay people to serve openly in the military and against a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
He told the Sun Sentinel in 2011 that he planned to marry his husband Ted Adcock in New York — one of the first gay couples in South Florida to announce they were doing so after the state legalized same-sex marriage. Adcock died late last year.
Keechl ran unsuccessful campaigns for his county seat in 2010, 2012, and 2014. In 2016 he ran for Florida House District 93 and lost, despite a glowing endorsement from the Sun Sentinel. In 2022 he came in second for Fort Lauderdale's District 1 special election.
He also managed the firm Keechl Law – specializing in civil issues for LGBTQ clients — in Wilton Manors.
He was a member of the Dolphin Democrats, the oldest LGBTQ Political Organization in Florida, and at one point served as their president.
"Ken was a friend to so many in our community...Ken's support of community organizations and his wise counsel will be greatly missed," the group wrote on Twitter.
Friends describe a 'soldier' for human rights
Michael Albetta met Ken Keechl when he joined the Dolphin Democrats more than 20 years ago.
“He felt that everyone's rights mattered. He made sure that everyone had a voice at the table and everyone's concern was there,” Albetta said.
When Keechl ran for county commission, Albetta remembers knocking on doors and campaigning with him. He remembered seeing Keechl kiss his husband during his swearing-in ceremony in the county chambers.
“It was exhilarating for the LGBTQ community, you know, because the gays were getting a lift up and this is the first time to make history. And he did,” he said.
Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Steve Glassman said Keechl spent his one term as a county commissioner working for the community.
"He had always been out there in the forefront of those activities when Broward County really did not have at that time a lot of protections for the LGBTQ community,” Glassman said.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, who was the first openly gay city commissioner, said that Keechl continued his activism even though he was never elected back into public office.
“In the attempt to secure equal rights for the LGBT community, Ken became a soldier,” Trantalis said.
"He will be deeply missed. Ken was a community trailblazer," the mayor wrote on his Twitter.