Ken Keechl, Broward’s first openly gay county mayor, dies at 60

Ken Keechl, a lawyer who was the first openly gay person to serve on the Broward County Commission, his last year as mayor, died Friday of pancreatic cancer, according to a family spokesman.

He was 60.

Keechl was a Democratic activist and lawyer when he announced his bid for the Broward County Commission. He was elected in 2006 and served until 2010. He was chosen to lead as Broward’s mayor in his final year on the County Commission, from November 2009 through November 2010.

His victory was monumental, having beat an incumbent Republican who was once president of the state Senate and who had been appointed to the County Commission by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000.

Karen Frazin congratulates her brother Ken Keechl as he begins his one-year rotation as Broward County's mayor. Keechl, who was elected to the Broward County Commission in 2006, is Broward's first openly-gay mayor. (Susan Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Ken Keechl, Broward County’s former mayor who sailed to victory as the first openly gay candidate, died Friday of pancreatic cancer, according to a family spokesman. He was 60. (Susan Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

“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 South Florida Sun Sentinel in 2009 when he became mayor.

As commissioner, Keechl pushed to broaden the county’s anti-discrimination laws to include transgendered residents.

He also authored resolutions in favor of allowing gays to serve openly in the military and against a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

“It’s a terrible tragedy for the entire community,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis. Keechl was a “leader in the LGBT community and tirelessly committed to the welfare of everyone that he served. It’s a great loss for everybody.”

A 1984 graduate in history from Florida State University, Keechl then received his law degree there three years later.

Former County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman said she remembers Keechl as a “passionate advocate for the interests of his constituents.” One particular effort was to enact additional requirements for developers who were trying to convert golf courses into residential development.

“He didn’t believe in paving over Broward County,” Lieberman said. “Golf courses are green spaces and every inch of Broward doesn’t have to have a building on it.”

She also remembers him as a kind soul: “When Ken is your friend he is there through thick and thin.”

Keechl sought to get back into politics last year, unsuccessfully running for a seat on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission.

He is predeceased by his husband, Ted Adcock, who died in December. Keechl announced their engagement in 2011, then one of the first gay couples in South Florida to announce they were getting married under New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage.

Keechl is survived by two sisters and their families. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Broward Burial and Cremation.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash

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