Get ready for the 4th of July in Key West!

Sam Kaufman, Key West Vice Mayor and City Commissioner for District II, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about what’s been going on in the city.

It’s time to celebrate Independence Day.

Kaufman said, “The city of Key West has sponsored the fireworks for decades and it’s absolutely a great partnership with the Rotary Club of Key West and so many locals get to enjoy it with their families. It’s an event that will live on for many, many, many years to come.”

With Key West City Manager Al Childress no longer being in office after a vote last week by the City Commission, Todd Stoughton has stepped in as the interim manager.

Kaufman said, “Just like Mr. Childress, Mr. Stoughton is a very fine man, a good man. He’s very well liked in the city and he brings stability, which is what we need so much right now, without having a transition plan in place and without having any plan for filling in some of the key spots in upper management, right now we’re lacking a permanent director in our utility department and our engineering department, now in our city manager spot. I think there’s a couple other key positions that are vacant. So we really need Mr. Stoughton right now as a temporary fill in as an interim city manager. He’s doing a great job so far. I’ve talked to him a couple of times. I’m meeting with him later today and I have full confidence in him because he has been in the assistant role for many years now and he knows the ins and outs of what’s going on in operations.”

In the past, Stoughton has said he is not interested in filling the role full time.

Kaufman said, “I think we’re all hopeful. I’m hopeful that he’ll stay on with the city and some role, even after a permanent selection of a new city manager is made. I think he’s a great asset for the city of Key West and whatever role he’s comfortable taking on. I think a lot of us hope that he stays on with the city. Everybody who has worked with him, and I’ve worked with him on so many projects, it’s a pleasure to work with him. He’s committed to the city of Key West and he gets things done and sort of reminiscent of folks who remember John Jones, a former assistant city manager who was so well known for just getting things done and in our city we need we need folks like Mr. Stoughton.”

Is it fair to assume that there may have been some conflict between Stoughton and Childress?

Kaufman said, “I don’t want to speak for Mr. Stoughton and I respect him too much to do that. I think that that will come out and I don’t think it’s a scandal or anything that’s significant. It’s something that organizations of our size, 540 employees and a lot of kind of high pressure, time sensitive projects have to get done. I don’t think that too much has to be made of that, my personal opinion, because we need to rise above the personalities and the different styles because we have to get the business done of the city. But I think it’s that’s better addressed directly by Mr. Stoughton at a time that he’s comfortable doing and like I said, I respect him and want to want to give him that ability to do that on his own timeframe.”

There will be a special meeting on August 26 with the new city commission.

Kaufman said, “I think the focus needs to be on unifying the city. I think with a new commission coming in, at least partially, by the end of August, two of the seats have been decided upon, with the new mayor coming in, and Commissioner Lee, from District III, I think we need to focus on teamwork and being unified and not accentuating the division, which, unfortunately, was done by our commission in this past meeting, and we need to figure out ways to bring us together because there’s too much at stake. We have so many projects, so many things that can slip through the cracks. We’re going to harken back on that commission meeting when Mr. Childress was terminated, when we asked why wasn’t this funding achieved? Or why wasn’t this project carried out? Or what’s the delay in this other project? We need consistency and stability in the city and we need to come together as a commission to help lead the city in that direction.”

With hurricane season underway, leadership is critical.

Kaufman said, “Thankfully, the city has really strong partnerships with our local military partners, the Coast Guard, the Navy, each have their own of course, emergency services personnel. We have our partnership with our local meteorologists from the federal government, we have our own emergency services personnel and Todd Stoughton has had that experience in hurricanes. So he knows what the issues are and he can help lead the city during this hurricane season. I don’t think any of us are that worried about that. But there are certain things that will be missed without having Mr. Childress in place. Some key things can be missed and it’s not the best position that we could be in. But at the same time, I wouldn’t say that it’s a disaster by any means. I think we’re in good shape for the fundamentals, in terms of what what’s needed to carry on for emergency management. We have a strong port director and so on. So I think that’s not really a major issue. But again having Mr Childress with all the technical skill that he had, and all the contacts he has actually in South Florida being in management in South Florida municipal government for decades, really, really, we’re going to be missing that.”