Key West will need a new city manager in July 2023 when Patti McLauchlin retires.
The mayor and city commissioners appointed a search committee to find and vet potential candidates for the city’s highest office. The committee will likely review a pool of applicants and forward its key recommendations to city officials for further review and interviews. McLauchlin will provide an update when the city commission meets at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, August 16.
The Keys Weekly requested and received from the City Clerk’s Office the nominations for the City Manager’s Search Committee:
Mayor Teri Johnston named Arlo Haskell, treasurer of Safer Cleaner Ships, which spearheaded opposition to cruise ships in Key West. Haskell is also an author, poet, and executive director of Key West Literary Seminar. Johnston initially nominated 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 reached out to Sharpe about the change, and said Haskell, “has spent a lot of time working with the city manager over the past two years and has a good understanding of responsibilities.”
Commissioner Jimmy Weekley appointed Kurt Lewinwho grew up in Key West and whose father, Kermit, served as mayor in the 1960s. Kurt Lewin is senior vice president of 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 in many neighborhood improvement efforts in Bahama Village.
Commissioner Billy Wardlow appointed Donie Leeretired Key West Police Chief and longtime Key West Police Officer.
Commissioner Greg Davila appointed Chris Valdeza retired Monroe County educator of 30 years and longtime vice principal of Key West High School.
Commissioner Mary Lou Hoover appointed Sam Hollanda graduate of Key West High School, chairman of the Key West Planning Board and owner of the Conch House guesthouse.
Commissioner Clayton Lopez appointed Ken Sullivana leader of the Coral City Elks Lodge in Bahama Village and an activist from Bahama Village.
McLauchlin was named Key West’s first female city manager in July 2021 after serving in various city roles for 40 years, including deputy city manager. His promotion to city manager followed the departure of his predecessor Greg Veliz, who left to become deputy manager of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority.
Veliz was the preferred successor to former city manager and current county commissioner Jim Scholl, a retired naval aviator who had also served as commanding officer of Naval Air Station Key West before being hired as city manager. from Key West in retirement.
The hiring of Veliz as city manager in May 2019 sparked debate among city commissioners and the mayor, some of whom wanted to do a nationwide search for Scholl’s replacement. Other commissioners wanted to promote from within and supported Veliz, who already knew the city government and had Scholl’s full support.
That broader search now looks imminent for the committee tasked with selecting potential city leadership candidates to succeed McLauchlin.
As of June 2021, the city manager’s annual salary was $185,000 plus benefits. That salary could rise during the commission’s ongoing budget negotiations which will be finalized in September.