What on earth is happening with the City Manager in Key West?

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

With recent news about some city council members not being too happy with City Manager Al Childress, what’s really going on? 

Johnston said, “I’m going to be very cautious in my statements because I have every expectation that this has the potential to wind up with a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city and the taxpayers. So I want to be really careful. I am in City Hall every day and I work very closely with Al Childress and I have been through six city managers now, one twice, and Al Childress is by far the most competent, professional, effective city manager that we have ever had. In fact, that was noted in evaluations done by the City Commission, just a little bit more than a month ago, where six out of the seven city commissioners evaluated Al well as meeting or exceeding performance expectations. So I think that this is highly concerning.”

Some council members are looking to relieve Childress of his duties. 

Johnston said, “It’s highly unusual for another reason, because these city commissioners, who have who have decided they want to fire Al after a year, these are the same city commissioners who asked that important decisions be put off for the next city commission that’s coming in. That brings me around to let’s get out of this negative very highly, controversial issue and get back to something really positive. And that’s congratulating Dee Dee Henriquez, who will be our next mayor, will take over the office, I believe on August 26, according to our supervisor of elections. I just want to congratulate her and I feel badly coming in under the auspice of this significant controversy, but she is going to do a terrific job for the city of Key West as our you know, newly elected city commissioner Donie Lee for District III.” 

With Johnston no longer being mayor, is retirement on the horizon?

She said, “I’ve been working closely with city staff and Al, moving projects forward that we’ve had on the books for a number of years. We had a ribbon cutting at the up at the Pocket Park in front of the Custum House. We’re moving forward with the MLK pool. We’re moving forward with the bond issues. As you know, from our last City Commission meeting, we had a conversation and we’ve asked Al to bring some more details to the public. They’ve been asking for more details as to the projects that we’re going to bring forward. So we’ll be doing that. So they have a comfort level as they go out to vote on the four referendum items on the November ballot. So we’ve got a lot of work and my obligation to the citizens of the city Keywest is to do everything I can to move the city forward until August 26 when Dee Dee will take over. I’m sure she’s going to continue the efforts.”

It’s often said that once people retire, they become busier than ever. 

Johnston laughed, “We love Key West. It’s an incredible town, there are so many good people in the city and that’s what keeps you going everyday as mayor is those good people, working to treat everybody equitably in the city of Key West, to make their lives better in the city of Key West, and to improve the living conditions and the quality of life for the people that that call Key West home.”

There will be no city commission meeting in July. 

Johnston said, “These four commissioners apparently have have asked to call a meeting on July 3, which is a holiday weekend to determine the fate of our city manager. I’m not sure what’s happening there. I haven’t heard any details. We also have budget workshops starting in July, we have three budget workshops which are open to the public. We welcome public comment and we will be hammering through the first layer of our ‘24/‘25 budget.” 

A new roof for the skate park was approved. 

Johnston said, “That was approved on the last City Commission agenda and we did pull off the interlocal agreement with the Monroe County School District because my thoughts is that as we improve all of these fields and rinks and recreational areas for our children that that’s a shared expense with with the county, so we are working to make it just a little bit more equitable so that the taxpayers of the city of Key West aren’t footing the entire bill on this.”

Last Friday there was quite an event in Key West. 

Johnston said, “County Mayor Holly Raschein and I had the privilege of going down to Simonton Beach and welcoming all the castaways in. the Castaways for Cancer is an organization, it’s 25 years old. They have raised over $2.7 million for cancer research. There’s a special place in heaven for all of these folks. They came in by kayak, they came in by bicycle and they came in running and they’re just an incredible group of people that continue to give to our community to benefit cancer survivors and cancer research.”

June 1 began hurricane season and everyone should be prepared. 

Johnston said, “We want to remind everybody is that one of the critical issues when you evacuate is you cannot find gasoline. Please keep your tanks filled. From June 1 until November 30, please keep your gas tank filled. It’s going to reduce your stress level immensely.”