Updated on Friday, Aug. 19: Key West Chamber of Commerce president Suzanne Moore sent a letter to city officials on Aug. 17, asking that the city add a seat to the city manager search committee so the chamber would have a representative on the committee. “As the Chamber President and representing over 525 local businesses in town, we feel that our opinion should be heard and that we should have a seat at the table,” Moore wrote to the mayor, commissioners and city manager. In the note, Moore volunteered to be the chamber’s representative.
Search committee member Sam Holland, who was appointed to the committee by Commissioner Mary Lou Hoover and is chairman of the city’s Planning Board, told the Keys Weekly on Aug. 17, “It’s my understanding the committee is already set, and I know some committee members are also chamber members. If it’s the will of the commission to expand the committee, I think Chamber Director Robert Goltz would be as good a choice as anyone to represent the entire chamber and its board of directors.”
Original story from Aug. 11, 2022: Key West will need a new city manager in July 2023, when Patti McLauchlin retires.
The mayor and city commissioners have appointed a search committee to find and vet potential candidates for the city’s top job. The committee will likely review a field of applicants and forward their top recommendations to city officials for further consideration and interviews. McLauchlin will provide an update when the city commission meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16.
The Keys Weekly requested and received from the city clerk’s office the City Manager Search Committee appointments:
Mayor Teri Johnston appointed Arlo Haskell, treasurer of Safer Cleaner Ships, which spearheaded the opposition to cruise ships in Key West. Haskell is also an author, poet and executive director of the Key West Literary Seminar. Johnston initially appointed local philanthropist and business owner Maria Sharpe, but replaced her with Haskell. Johnston told the Keys Weekly on Thursday, Aug. 11 that she had already contacted Sharpe about the change, and said Haskell, “has spent a great deal of time working with the city manager in the past two years and has a good grasp on the responsibilities.”
Commissioner Jimmy Weekley appointed Kurt Lewin, who grew up in Key West and whose father, Kermit, served as mayor in the 1960s. Kurt Lewin is a senior vice president at First State Bank of the Florida Keys.
Commissioner Sam Kaufman appointed Peggy Ward Grant.
Grant is a retired health department employee and community activist who has been involved with numerous Bahama Village neighborhood improvement efforts.
Commissioner Billy Wardlow appointed Donie Lee, a retired Key West police chief and longtime Key West police officer.
Commissioner Greg Davila appointed Chris Valdez, a retired, 30-year Monroe County educator and longtime vice principal at Key West High School.
Commissioner Mary Lou Hoover appointed Sam Holland, a graduate of Key West High School, chairman of the Key West Planning Board and owner of Conch House guest house.
Commissioner Clayton Lopez appointed Ken Sullivan, a leader of the Coral City Elks Lodge in Bahama Village and a Bahama Village activist.
McLauchlin was appointed Key West’s first female city manager in July 2021 after working in various city positions for 40 years, including assistant city manager. Her promotion to city manager followed the departure of her predecessor Greg Veliz, who left to become deputy director at Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority.
Veliz was the favored successor of former city manager and current county commissioner Jim Scholl, a retired naval aviator who also had served as commander of Naval Air Station Key West before he was tapped as Key West city manager in retirement.
Veliz’s hiring as city manager in May 2019 prompted a debate among the city commissioners and mayor, some of whom wanted to do a national search for Scholl’s replacement. Other commissioners wanted to promote from within and supported Veliz, who was already familiar with city government and had the full support of Scholl.
That broader search now appears imminent for the committee tasked with vetting potential city manager candidates to succeed McLauchlin.
As of June 2021, the city manager’s annual salary was $185,000 plus benefits. That salary could increase during the commission’s ongoing budget negotiations that will be finalized in September.