Oliver Kerr, FAICP (1940-2017)
APA Florida and the Gold Coast Section lost a good friend, consummate planner and compassionate community leader with the passing of Oliver Kerr, FAICP, on June 10, 2017. He was 77. Oliver retired in 2006 following a 32 year career with the Miami-Dade Planning Department as Demographic Section Supervisor.
Oliver, who was born in Armagh City, Ireland, arrived in Miami in 1964 as a Catholic priest at the Archdiocese of Miami. He worked at the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables for two years before attending Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C., where he studied education and administration. In 1964 he started a four-year post at St. Francis Xavier in Overtown where became involved in urban planning issues.
“The Overtown neighborhood was broken in those years with a great loss of housing from the construction of the I-95/I-395 interchange and the urban renewal/land clearing activities of the government. At that time, I lived above the St. Vincent de Paul salvage store on Miami Avenue and Eight Street and attempted with some success to get new housing built in and around the church.”
With Kerr’s leadership, 47 new town houses were constructed on Northeast 20th Street and Fifth Avenue in cooperation with three other churches in the area. Apartments followed. Along with other seminarians, Kerr helped run a summer arts and recreation program for Overtown children. “This was part of the community-building work that I loved,” he wrote.
It was in Overtown that he met Karen, who would become his first wife after leaving the priesthood. Oliver left the priesthood in 1971 and returned to Catholic University to obtain a Master degree in City and Regional Planning. While attending Catholic University, Oliver was a Research Associate at the Washington Center for Metropolitan Studies. Oliver returned to Miami in 1973 and married Karen. They raised a family of five children – two of who they adopted. Oliver’s second wife, Mary Ann, died in 2015. Oliver was in the care of Karen at his passing.
“He was dedicated to his family, chosen profession, and committed to those ideals he held dear,” said Manuel Armada, his colleague of 30-years. “His ability to write and produce thorough, concise, clear, and easily understood reports was without equal. His extraordinary oratorical skills were legendary. Oliver could deliver a speech, on the spot, about almost any subject and mesmerize the audience. He attributed this skill to having kissed the Blarney Stone.”
Former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez named a day in honor of Oliver Kerr in 2006. The Miami New Times named Oliver as “Best Public Servant” in 2003. He was awarded the distinction of Fellow, American Institute of Certified Planners in part for his volunteer work in conducting prep courses for AICP candidates.
Oliver was an Orange Bowl ambassador who volunteered with the Human Services Coalition. In 2002, he joined the South Florida Emerald Society, which sponsors the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Coral Gables, and served as a two-term president.
Following his retirement from Miami-Dade in 2006, Olive taught at FIU Metropolitan Center. As a Senior Research Associate at FIU Oliver worked on planning and housing studies in cities and counties throughout SE Florida from Martin to Monroe Counties. In 2011, he was appointed to the Board of the South Miami-Dade Economic Development Council and worked with leadership in Cutler Bay, Palmetto Bay, and Pinecrest to establish urban centers in these three young municipalities in South Miami-Dade County.
Oliver’s survivors include his children Michael, Daniel, Lea and Brian Kerr; grandchildren Madison, Ava and Erin; and five siblings. He was predeceased by his son Joseph and brother James.