Three Key West lawmakers who are leaving office in a few months apparently want to fire the city manager on their way out the door. Al Childress, who started the job in April 2023 with a four-year contract, got a call Friday evening from city attorney Ron Ramsingh.

“He said there are four votes from commissioners to fire me; they’re planning to call a special meeting, tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, July 3,” Childress told the Keys Weekly on Friday night, still reeling from the news.

The four voting to oust him, Childress said, are Commissioners Jimmy Weekley, Clayton Lopez, Billy Wardlow and Lissette Carey, who is the only one of the four remaining in office. 

Weekley, Lopez and Wardlow are term-limited out after the upcoming election, and Mayor Teri Johnston chose not to run again, meaning four of the seven city lawmakers will be brand new — and possibly in need of a new city manager. 

Commissioners Carey, Sam Kaufman and Mary Lou Hoover will remain on the dais, joined after the election by incoming Mayor DeeDee Henriquez and new Commissioner Donie Lee, who will replace Commissioner Billy Wardlow.

Henriquez and Lee ran unopposed and thus will be elected in the Aug. 20 primary. 

Weekley’s and Lopez’s commission seats are up for grabs in contested races. Monica Haskell and Ben Hennington are running for Weekley’s seat in District 1.  Aaron Castillo, Thaddeus Cohen and Marci Rose are running for Lopez’s District 6 seat.

The Friday night news of Childress’s opposition comes two days after assistant city manager Todd Stoughton tendered his resignation, saying he wants to spend more time with his family, but leaving his last day “open-ended to allow enough time for a replacement to be named so I can ensure a smooth transition, prior to the end of the fiscal year (Oct. 1),” Stoughton wrote to city manager Childress on Wednesday, June 13.

“The hope would be that Todd would step in as interim city manager so we have some stability, especially with a new mayor and three new commissioners coming on board,” Commissioner Carey told the Keys Weekly Friday night, acknowledging that she is in favor of replacing Childress.

Carey has been critical of him at commission meetings and in her evaluation of him in April, writing, “The city manager needs to work on a better understanding of the needs of the Keys community and the will of the residents. While his previous experience in Miami provides him with relevant experience in municipal government, the initiatives he is attempting to duplicate in Key West are out of touch with what our citizens want.”

Mayor Johnston, on the other hand, wrote of Childress in April, “I have worked with six city managers, and Al Childress is the most qualified, transparent, equitable, efficient and principled city manager I have had the pleasure of working with.” 

Johnston again strongly commended Childress on Friday, when speaking with the Keys Weekly, complimenting his communication, professionalism and working relationships with most city departments.

Commissioners Hoover lamented Stoughton’s resignation and commended his work, while echoing the mayor’s support for Childress. 

Stoughton declined to comment about the ongoing machinations at city hall.

No special meeting to discuss Childress’s potential termination had been scheduled as of 10 p.m. Friday. If the move happens, it likely will cost the city about $100,000. Childress’s contract provides for 20 weeks of pay if the commissioners end his contract early. With an annual salary of $225,000, five months of pay equals about $93,000.

Mandy Miles
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.