From left, David Burke, Abe Conn and Thaddeus Cohen are the 3 finalists for Key West city manager. CONTRIBUTED

And then there were three — finalists, that is, for the Key West city manager job: David Burke, Thaddeus Cohen and Abe Conn, all of whom already live in the Florida Keys.

Members of the local city manager search committee, appointed by the city commission, this week submitted their own recommendations of candidates who should be invited for in-person interviews.

Six applicants made the committee members’ lists of recommended candidates, but Burke, Conn and Cohen received the most votes. Five committee members recommended Conn. Four recommended Cohen and three recommended Burke. (Applicants Albert Childress, Lisa Hendrickson and Don King, Jr. each received two recommendations from committee members.)

Abe Conn, a retired U.S. Army colonel, served three one-year tours in Afghanistan as a battalion commander and colonel in command of the Army Liaison Team in Afghanistan. He also worked for 26 years as a senior special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Key West, according to his application.

Thaddeus Cohen is an architect by trade who formerly worked as Key West’s planning director. He is now a project manager for MBR Construction in Fort Lauderdale. From 2017 to 2021, he worked as a department head in charge of growth management for Collier County, Florida, his application states.

David Burke is a retiring Navy captain who most recently has served as chief of staff for JIATF-South, the military’s elite Joint Interagency Task Force headquartered at Truman Annex in Key West. He and his family have lived in Key West since 2020 and consider the island their permanent home, his application states.

The city commission, with Higginbotham’s guidance, now will begin to schedule in-person interviews, tours of the city, meetings with city department heads and public receptions.

Officials hope to have a city manager in place by April to provide two months of overlap before City Manager Patti McLauchlin retires in June.

The search committee members’ recommendations are as follows:

Arlo Haskell recommended: David Burke, Thaddeus Cohen, Don King, Jr. 

Sam Holland recommended: David Burke, Al Childress, Abe Conn and Don King, Jr.

Donie Lee recommended: Thaddeus Cohen and Abe Conn

Kurt Lewin recommended: Albert Childress, Abe Conn and Lisa Hendrickson

Ken Sullivan recommended: Thaddeus Cohen and Abe Conn

Peggy Ward-Grant recommended: David Burke, Thaddeus Cohen and Lisa Hendrickson

Chris Valdez recommended: Abe Conn

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.