Key West’s incoming City Manager Al Childress (L) and Key West City Attorney Ron Ramsingh (R)

Key West lawmakers made it official.

Al Childress will succeed Patti McLauchlin as city manager. And Ron Ramsingh will take the legal reins as city attorney.

The city commission voted unanimously on March 7 to promote Ramsingh from interim city attorney to permanent city attorney. His contract is being negotiated and is expected to be finalized at the April 4 commission meeting. Local attorney Greg Oropeza, who chaired the selection committee that recommended Ramsingh for the job, has volunteered to represent the city in those negotiations, said Ramsingh, who has been doing the job of city attorney since the Dec. 30 resignation of Shawn Smith.

Ramsingh has worked in the city attorney’s office since 2007. He was an assistant city attorney and then chief assistant city attorney. Before that, he worked for a personal-injury law firm on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Ramsingh also spent five years in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office.

“Ron grew up in Key West, is a proud KWHS Conch, graduating in 1991, and is an even bigger Florida Gator fan where he went to college,” states the city’s website.

As for the city manager, Childress starts work on April 3, but was in town for orientation this week, and for the March 7 city commission meeting, where lawmakers approved his four-year contract with an annual salary of $225,000. The contract also provides Childress with $15,000 in relocation expenses, $150-per-month cell phone allowance and either a city-owned vehicle or a $500-per-month car allowance. 

McLauchlin, who has seen it all in her 35-plus years working for the city, retires in June, thus providing sufficient overlap for Childress to learn the ropes in time to begin the city’s budget process in the spring.

Childress was selected from 43 total applicants, nine finalists and three top candidates to be the city’s top administrator.

The commission voted at a special meeting on Feb. 15 to hire Childress after hearing statements from the top three finalists — Childress, Abe Conn, David Burke.

More than a dozen residents spoke in favor of Conn at that Feb. 15 meeting, while local government watchdog Tom Milone touted Childress as the most qualified given his education and experience, and based on the city’s job description and criteria.

Following the commission’s vote for Childress, Conn immediately took to social media, responding to the Keys Weekly’s breaking news post about Childress’s selection.

“Wishing Al the best,” Conn wrote. “He’s going to be awesome. Can’t wait to help anyway I can. Welcome to the Key West family.”

Childress has master’s degrees in business administration and public administration and spent eight years as city manager and assistant city manager in Doral, Florida.

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.