Key West City Manager Patti McLauchlin has an unending to-do list, but is humbled by the support she’s received on the job. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

Patti McLauchlin has seven bosses, 520 or so employees and 25,000 shareholders, and she answers to all of them on a near-daily basis.

But the Key West city manager found some time on Sept. 21 to sit down with the Keys Weekly and review her first few months on the job. McLauchlin has been doing the job of city manager since her predecessor Greg Veliz departed City Hall on April 16 for a position with Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority. She was dubbed interim city manager for a while, while the city commissioners decided what sort of a search they should conduct for Veliz’s replacement.

But then a search committee composed of members appointed by the commissioners — and Veliz — heartily recommended McLauchlin for the full-time manager position. She signed a two-year contract in June with an option to extend it for two years.

McLauchlin had worked for the city of Key West for 40 years in various departments before taking the reins as city manager. 

“I think we’ve hit the ground running, and I’m truly excited to be part of what we’re doing in the city right now,” she told the Keys Weekly while thumbing through a stack of ongoing, completed and still-to-come projects and programs. No matter how many items she checks off, the woman’s to-do list never gets shorter.

“But I’m excited about so many things that are happening, both internally and outside in the city,” she said, adding that the city recently approved its long-awaited strategic plan that outlines goals and objectives. “I think the most important part of that plan is that we listened to our employees and to our community,” she said. 

McLauchlin has also been commended for listening to restaurant owners with regard to the city’s new Sidewalk Cafe program, which will be officially unveiled next month, but is already underway, with restaurants placing tables outside to help with social distancing during the pandemic.

“Todd Stoughton, assistant city manager, has been instrumental to me, with the cafe program and many other initiatives,” McLauchlin said. “I really have a great staff.”

McLauchlin is also proud of the calmness she feels she has brought to City Hall.

“I think I bring balance and a calmness that wasn’t always here before,” she said, adding that she has installed a suggestion box for city employees and started writing an internal employee newsletter twice a month called “Patti’s Pen.” She also organized the first employee picnic at the amphitheater on Aug. 7 for staff and their families.

“The Evergreen salary study is something near and dear to my heart,” McLauchin said, referring to a comprehensive comparison of salaries paid by the city versus Monroe County, Keys Energy Services, the aqueduct authority and the local sheriff’s office. City salaries, the report found, lag behind other public employers by 12% to 17%, a gap that is being corrected in upcoming budgets.

“I was adamant about seeing this through and getting us caught up in order to recruit and retain good people,” she said. “And I give the utmost praise to Mark Finigan and the finance team for finding money in the budget to start implementing the new pay schedules.”

Outside City Hall, things are happening as well. The city is finally making headway on the workforce housing that’s been planned for the final 3.2 acres of Truman Waterfront.

Duval Street and Mallory Square are in line for a significant makeover and McLauchlin wants to turn White Street Pier into a more inviting space for locals and families. “I hope to see both Mallory Square and White Street Pier come alive for our locals and visitors.”

Despite days of overwhelming emails, updates and inquiries, McLauchlin seems to be comfortable in her element.

“I’ve been so humbled by the support I’ve received from the community, the city staff and the commission,” she said. “People are constantly thanking me for listening, and I think that’s a huge part of my job before making decisions.”

When it is time to decide, McLauchlin finds herself glancing up at the quote that hangs on her office wall by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”

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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.