Kent Stermon, an influential Northeast Florida Republican political donor and a member of the Board of Governors, died Thursday night. He was 50.
Stermon was president of Total Military Management, a logistics firm that re-locates members of the armed services, and both through political donations and personal relationships, particularly with Gov. Ron DeSantis, had become a significant player in local and state politics.
Police do not suspect foul play in his death. An Atlantic Beach police officer found him unresponsive in a truck parked at the post office on Mayport Road around 8 p.m. Thursday, according to an incident report.
In recent weeks, Stermon was the subject of an "active investigation" by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters did not specify what the investigation was about, but law enforcement sources told the Times-Union and news partner First Coast News that investigators were scrutinizing alleged sexual misconduct. His attorney, David Barksdale, couldn't be immediately reached for comment.
"This investigation remains ongoing at this time and will continue until its completion. As with all active investigations, there is limited information available to release at this time," Waters said. "However, as soon as this investigation has been completed, all applicable information will be available for release to the public."
Stermon generally kept a low public profile but widely was known to be a friend to DeSantis and a confidant to former Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and other local politicians.
In 2019, DeSantis appointed Stermon to the prominent Board of Governors, which oversees the state's public universities.
"He 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," the board said in a statement Friday. "The Board of Governors sends its heartfelt condolences to Kent's family during this difficult time."
Stermon's connection to DeSantis became more widely known after a 2018 POLITICO story that detailed a period of six months when the then-congressman rented a Flagler County condo co-owned by Stermon and his business partner. The governor's office said in a statement the "Governor and First Lady were shocked and saddened" by Stermon's death; the office told POLITICO it had "no knowledge" of the JSO investigation.
Stermon also loomed large in the Jacksonville's political circles - particularly in law enforcement. He had formed personal relationships with many JSO officers and employees, including Williams, the former sheriff who is now the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Jacksonville regional office. He was also an ally of Mayor Lenny Curry. Both men hosted a fundraiser last year for failed Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker.
Stermon had suffered recent health challenges, including a stroke. He told A.G. Gancarksi of Florida politics on Thursday that he was "stepping about as far from politics as I can right now."
"My prognosis is positive and I just got discharged from hospital but I have a ton of work to do to get healthy," he told the outlet.
Nate Monroe is a metro columnist whose work regularly appears every Thursday and Sunday. Follow him on Twitter @NateMonroeTU.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Influential Jacksonville political donor Kent Stermon found dead