MEET THE 4 FINALISTS FOR CITY MANAGER ON FEB. 13

Want to meet the four finalists for Key West’s city manager job?

David Burke, Albert Childress, Thaddeus Cohen and Abraham Conn will take part in a public meet-and-greet reception on Monday, Feb. 13  from 4 to 7 p.m. at Waterfront Brewery. 

The city commission is expected to name a new city manager two days later, at a special meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 5 p.m. 

The candidates also will meet one-on-one with the commissioners and department directors.  Those meetings will culminate in the public reception to meet the candidates and ask questions in an informal setting. 

The four finalists were selected from 43 initial applications.

Professional search consultant Dona Higginbotham narrowed that first list down to nine qualified applicants who met the city’s criteria. 

A local search committee, its members appointed by the mayor and commissioners, then reviewed the nine finalists’ resumes — and had access to all 43 original applications 

Committee members were each asked to select three or four names — without ranking them — from the list of nine finalists to determine the top three or four candidates to be invited for interviews.

The committee members’ picks revealed Burke, Cohen and Conn, but the math was off. 

Not everyone had followed directions, Higginbotham acknowledged to the city commission last month. One committee member selected only one candidate; others selected only two and the rest chose the requested three or four names, skewing the results.

As a result, the commissioners added two more finalists to the interview list — Albert Childress and Lisa Hendrickson — during their Jan. 18 meeting. 

Hendrickson later withdrew her application on Feb. 3.

And then there were four…

David Burke, Albert Childress, Thaddeus Cohen and Abraham Conn. (Candidates’ resumes are linked on the city’s website at cityofkeywest-fl.gov. Click on the “City Manager Search” tab from the home page.)

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.

Albert Childress worked for Doral, Florida for 16 years, most recently serving as its city manager for two years. Before that, Childress was the code compliance director for Miami from 1996-2005.

What about the city attorney?

Key West also is in the market for a new city attorney, following the year-end resignation of Shawn Smith after 16 years. 

Five lawyers thus far have applied for the job: Ralf Brookes, Suhail Chhabra, S. Brandon Dimando, Zoltan Pinter and Ron Ramsingh. See the committee’s Feb. 9 agenda at  cityofkeywest-fl.gov for each candidates’ resume.)

A screening committee of local attorneys meets at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 9 in City Hall to  discuss the five applicants for the job that’s crucial to city government.

The screening committee includes: Erica Sterling, Greg Davila, Greg Oropeza, Jennifer Sanchez, Richard McChesney, Sam Kaufman and Wayne Miller.

Ramsingh worked as Key West’s chief assistant city attorney under Smith. The city commission appointed him interim city attorney during the search process.

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.