The city of Key West will see a lot of transition in the next few months

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s going on in the city.

The transition to the new mayor, Dee Dee Henriquez will happen soon, but with the termination of the City Manager Al Childress, the change over could be a little rocky.

A meeting in August called by two commissioners could potentially see a reversal of the termination decision.

Johnston said, “That’s been done in the city of Key West, I believe was in 1983. The same scenario came up in a very unfortunate poorly thought out termination was reversed by a new incoming City Commission. I think it will certainly set the tone and say a lot about how Dee Dee Henriquez and our new city commissioner replacing Billy Wardlow, Donie Lee, vote on that issue. Al and I had met with Dee Dee. We’re trying to create a smooth transition. So Al and I had met with Dee Dee and spent about an hour going over policies and procedures and things that were going on in the city and Al had been reaching out to Dee Dee as well as all candidates prior to his termination, just to update them so that they could hit the ground running. This will certainly be a major vote defining their administrations on August 26. On the June 26th (meeting), the room clearly, clearly was in support of Al Childress and that the unfortunate thing for me is the fact that as elected officials, our job is to create confidence in City Hall to create a city hall that runs smoothly that meets the needs of our customers or our residents and these types of things just devastate trustworthiness and confidence in the city. When people do something that they cannot even explain to the public why they are doing it, it really erodes confidence and that bothers me a lot. Because I’ve worked for 14 years to be transparent, to open up City Hall to make sure that we are treating everyone in the city of Key West, equitably, and that we’re not singling out one small group of people and treating them differently. We made great strides. What happened a week ago, last Thursday, set Key West back 15 years and believe me, people are watching. They’re looking at the instability and the harmful knee jerk reactions, like what happened there and the impacts of that and those impacts are going to ripple through this community for years to come.”

Earlier this year, Johnston decided to not seek reelection to the City Council.

She said, “One of the reasons that I did announced that I was not going to run for reelection is that I took a look back at every single campaign promise that I’ve made over the 14 years and every single one of them has either been accomplished or is in the works right now. So there’s no better time to move on to new challenges than right now for me. Since this situation came up with for city commissioners, I really wish that I would be here to continue to support the city and to try and move it in a transparent and progressive way. Because I tell you over the 14 years, one of the things that I’ve grown to understand is that the resistance to change in this community by a very small vocal minority is going to be our downfall. Every community has got to change, has got to grow, has got to meet the needs of the residents and in our residents, 90% of them came to Key West by choice. They came here from another area, and it is our job to continue to provide goods and services to meet their needs, and to grow and improve as a tourist destination because that’s our economy. Our resistance to change is really detrimental to us being successful there.”

It seemed as though some of the policies and procedures Childress implemented didn’t land well with others.

Johnston said, “I think that that’s evident by the makeup of the commission and I think we need to elect a representative commission, somebody who represents the majority of the people, and right now we have four multigenerational commissioners when we have a community made up of less than 10% multigenerational residents. I think we’ve got to take a really close look at that and vote in a commission that represents our people, the people that actually live in the city of Key West. So I think we’ve got challenges for years to come. But this is such a good, good community. The vast majority of people here are good people, they work hard. They want to raise families here, they want the community to improve. They want to drive down streets that are not filled with potholes, and they want a police department that treats people equitably and creates a safe environment. We have that, we really do. But we have a small vocal minority that has the tails wagging the dog here.”

Childress had also improved relations and morale in the police department. One of the new council members, Donie Lee, was a former police officer, so that could help as well.

Johnston said, “I certainly hope that it is and I hope that Donie Lee supports the organization that promoted him to chief and Dee Dee has been in the community for lots and lots and lots of years and owns a business down on Duvall Street. So I think to be successful as an elected official, you have to take a look at every single issue and make sure that you were making the right decision for the majority of the people in Key West for the long term and if you can do that, then you can sleep every night.”

Despite her retirement, Johnston will continue to be active in the community.

She said, “We hit the ground running here. I don’t think it was a week after we got into Key West that we were joining an organization and becoming part of the community. It’s a great community. I mean, it really is a wonderful, wonderful community and we’ve got to get over situations like what occurred a week ago last Thursday that’s truly disgraceful in this city.”

Everyone needs to remember to stay cool in the heat.

Johnston said, “I would just like everybody to make sure that they stay hydrated and in the shade. Because these are very serious times with temperatures and we have been working with Dr. Carla Fry at the health department, who is also taking some very proactive measures to make sure that we have cooling stations and hydration stations and people are aware that you cannot work out in this this sun without taking breaks and without staying hydrated. So please take care of yourself because the heat is not something to mess with.”